Low-Flush Toilets Cause Stink in San Francisco

Jenny Erikson
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toiletLow-flush toilets are ridiculous. The concept is good, especially in California where water is in high demand and short supply. But the practicality of water-saving toilets is non-existent.

Once upon a time, people did their business in buckets or holes in the ground. Fancy rich people used decorated chamber pots, and they employed people to empty them. I’d like to see Dirty Jobs’ Mike Rowe tackle that task. Actually, I take that back. I have no desire to watch anyone clean out a chamber pot. Ever.

Then someone brilliant invented flushing toilets with the revolutionary U-bend, which kept the smell of the sewers from coming up through the bowl. Within a century, toilets as we know them today became commonplace in developed countries. 

Add the invention of Charmin Ultra-Soft, and toileting became a much more pleasant task than it had once been.

In 1994, Congress decided that water was too precious of a commodity to waste flushing waste, so a new law was put into effect mandating low-flush toilets. Where toilets once used up to seven gallons a flush, the new law made it illegal for toilets using more than 1.6 gallons a flush to be sold in the United States.

And people have been flushing three times for number two ever since.

San Francisco was especially determined to convert old-school water-wasting toilets into new eco-friendly ones. They converted fixtures in public buildings, and encouraged private citizens to do the same with rebate incentives and credits.

The result of the crunchy environmentally friendly toilet swap initiative has not exactly been kind to Mother Earth, nor to the taxpayers. The city has had to spend over a hundred million dollars on bleach to disinfect the stagnant sewage before it is dumped in the bay.

It turns out that low-flush toilets don’t use enough water to flush the poop out of the pipes. The sludge builds up and creates a stench in the city. To combat the stink, city officials have stocked up on 8.5 million pounds of bleach, which will be used not only for the sewage, but also for drinking water.

For a city that believes Happy Meals are evil attempts to contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, you’d think San Francisco would have a problem with bleach being dumped into the ground. Apparently, the most liberal city in the country only cares about the environment so long as it doesn’t smell like sewage.

 

Image via smoMashup/Flickr

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