Scientists say that traces of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material -- viral RNA -- in the poo we flush down the toilet and into the sewage system might reveal how badly coronavirus has hit a given community.
Analyzing sewage could show the true scale of an outbreak, in the absence of available testing, they say. Read the rest
Fact: The only thing that smells worse than your poop is tons of other people's poop. If you don't believe me, take a road trip to the town of Parrish, Alabama. They'll back me up on this one: According to the Associated Press, the citizens of Parrish were forced to endure the stench pouring off a train full of sewer sludge from New York and New Jersey for close to two months.
It's not unusual for trains full of human waste to pass through the town of 982 people: there's a landfill complex that treats and disposes of the excrement another 20 miles further down the track. Having the train stop in town to share its intoxicating perfume for two months? That's both unreasonable and unusual. It seems that another county in Alabama blocked the train's passage, making it impossible for it to reach its final destination. So, there it sat in Parrish: like a man in the bathroom after a large, questionable meal, full of poop, making everything terrible for everyone. NPR states that the train was stopped near a local park. The odor coming off of it was so bad that little league games had to be cancelled.
After two months of having to put up with the stench ruining the lives of everyone in the town, in mid-April, the Mayor of Parrish was finally able to tell her constituents that it was finally moving on. The town's administration will be looking into passing a series of by-laws to keep similar incidents from happening again. Read the rest
A group of people in Taiwan created these pretty popsicles using water from sewage of 100 different locations. The popsicles contain delicious morsels such as cigarette chunks, slivers of fishing net, discarded wood and paper, and raw snail eggs. No, these crafty folks aren't trying to kill anyone – they are Taiwanese art students raising awareness of water pollution.
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Those "flushable" baby wipes marketed to adults are causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to North American sewers and water treatment plants. Halifax Water put together a helpful and entertaining PSA on why the things are a bane to civil engineers across the continent. Read the rest
Authorities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, asked the city's million residents to flush their toilets at precisely 7:30 p.m. Saturday—a move aimed at clearing waste that had accumulated in the system after recent outages. [AP] Read the rest
Cloacina was the ancient Roman goddess of sewers. Think about that for a minute. To the Romans, the ability to take vile, disgusting wastewater and just get it the heck out of Rome was such a miraculous feat that they created a whole deity to watch over and protect the pipeline.
Now, how much more impressive would Cloacina have been if she could turn the sludge into usable water again?
Today, cities around the world are shifting away from the historical focus of wastewater management (i.e. the miracle of making the wastewater go away somewhere where we can't see it) and adopting a new paradigm of re-use. David Sedlak, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, studies wastewater and spoke about water recycling at the 2009 Nobel Conference on water conservation issues at Minnesota's Gustavus Adolphus University. He said that people are often turned off by the idea of cycling water from the toilet to the tap and back again, but water recycling is very different from simply filling a glass out of the John.
In fact, you could be drinking recycled water and not even know it. Read the rest