The San Francisco sewer system is an amazing feat of engineering. Almost entirely gravity-run, it directs both stormwater and wastewater into a combined system of pipes that flow to wastewater treatment facilities. In the Life of Poo, you can type in an address in San Francisco and see where your toilet waste flows.[more inside]
Why the modern bathroom is a wasteful, unhealthy design (The Guardian): "Piped water may be the greatest convenience ever known but our sewage systems and bathrooms are a disaster" [more inside]
For the past several months, manatees, dolphins, and pelicans have been dying by the hundreds in Florida's Indian River Lagoon. [more inside]
Quite Likely The Worst Job Ever: 'The men who made it their living by forcing entry into London’s sewers at low tide and wandering through them, sometimes for miles, searching out and collecting the miscellaneous scraps washed down from the streets above' [more inside]
"What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human shit into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street" - "Looting Main Street" Matt Taibbi takes an in-depth look into how finance, deregulation, corruption, synthetic rate swaps, and greed decimated Birmingham, AL. [more inside]
Crap Happens. "Three hundred million Americans head to the restroom multiple times a day. The amount of sludge produced staggers the mind—7 million dry tons per year and counting. And it’s not even just crap—it contains residues from everything else we put down the drain, from the detergent in your dishwasher to the chemicals used at the industrial plant down the street."
Rose George wants you to start talking about waste. And no, she isn't concerned with your recycling habits, your fluorescent light bulbs, or the packaging on your electronics. She's concerned with your, ahem, human waste. Ms. George has written a book on the way both first and third world societies deal with sewage, and now Freakonomics is talking with her about it.
The lengths some people will go to get high. Jenkem or jekem is a drug made from raw human sewage, apparently most prevalent in Africa. (Mildly NSFW.)
After the holiday sweeties we ponder the age-old question: Can fish smell snickerdoodles?
The Ty-D-Bol Man looks pretty mellow today. When I was younger, my father - a pediatrician - would routinely clean out the medicine cabinet of old cold medicines, antibiotics, high potency barbiturates, illegal diet pills and other nostrums. Rather than throw them into the garbage "where someone might get their hands on them" he would flush them down the toilet (just like the poison control people recommend). Apparently in doing so he was making sure that everybody got them. Think the quantities are too small to make a difference? Not so, say Canadian fish, who seem capable of getting confused by the residue from birth control pills and changing gender. Don't worry too much about them, though. They're all on Prozac, so they're OK with it. [NB: see comments for .pdf version of first link]
Waikiki Stinks -- Millions of gallons of raw sewage are flowing into the ocean at the edge of Waikiki Beach. Sewage overflow is becoming a common part of Hawai'i winters. This annual sewage and rain runoff has raised serious concerns about health, reef devastation, and shark attacks. Surfers are pissed. The business community, meanwhile, is euphoric over the raging construction boom that is changing the Honolulu skyline, and lining pockets. Although the sewage/runoff has caused the state to be heavily fined by the Feds, there is no buzz about how this same island infrastructure will support the increased flushing of all the new high rises being built.
Urinate and save water at the same time. Water-free urinals in California. Is it good not to flush?
Two great tastes that taste great together. Are you a scat fan? Well, Congress will soon vote on a bipartisan measure that would block the EPA from allowing sewage blending. Scientists & environmentalists gave BushCo some flak on this, but notice how bipartisan the bill is: it's sponsored by Bart Stupak (D-MI) as well as Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) The whitehouse site yielded inconclusive results (searched for sewage blending) This issue first caught my attention on another site (rhymes with 'bark') and I discovered it matters, at least to me, because people crap in my drinking water all the time and apparently the municipal waste treatment systems aren't handling it.
Grinding Nemo. The JWC company, maker of sewage equipment, wishes to issue a press release informing small children everywhere that contrary to scenes in the hit Disney movie, flushing fish down a toilet drain will not set them free in the ocean, but rather melt them with chlorine disinfectant before shredding them into particles with processing machinery. Have a great weekend.
The Chicago River was essentially the city of Chicago's cesspool until the construction of the Chicago Ship & Sanitary Canal, which connected the Chicago River to the Mississippi Basin in 1900. Now there's serious talk of intentionally returning a section of the river to a cesspool-like state, by dumping untreated sewage and (possibly) toxic chemicals into the river. The purpose: to prevent invasive species such as the Asian Carp and the Round Goby from using this connection to cross between the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins. Is it ever possible to avoid unintended consequences in environmental engineering? And is it necessary to "go nuclear", so to speak, to try to correct them?
[Second link RealAudio; transcript here.]
[Second link RealAudio; transcript here.]
The demise of the honey bucket. Many of us take running water and sewage services for granted. The Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation is slowly converting rural Eskimo villages from a "fill and haul a bucket" sewage/water system to modern services. A fascinating look into the logistics required to bring these services into remote Artic villages.
Sometimes the really important news takes a while to get here. The Otago Daily Times in New Zealand reports on a sewage truck explosion: "A 50m trail of effluent" running down the road, a very dumbfounded driver, Lorraine Isaacs windshield hit by a flying sluice valve. Let the potty jokes begin.
Good news on the pollution front. Town in Northern California finds a way to turn its sewage into non-polluting water and make a wildlife refuge. If you live in Arcata, you can flush your toilet with pride! Quick overview here or the full flush.
Utterly Disgusting. I don't what made me more ill, the white stringy stuff, or the brown substance. Either or, it is just another example of how great government works... at any level.