Monday, February 28, 2011

What’s Green and Stinky? S.F.’s Low-Flow Toilets

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross rudely call attention to the aesthetic consequences of green narcissism:
San Francisco’s big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.

Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.
This isn’t news if you’ve been paying attention. A entire range of green gambits—from industrial-scale composting to biofuel plants to waterless urinals—generate offensive megasmells that make life unpleasant. Somehow this entirely predictable outcome catches the recycling advocates and Gaia-friendly plumbers by surprise. The usual result is a lot of money spent on odor remediation efforts. San Francisco is no different—but the sums involved are eye-opening:
The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem.

Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite - better known as bleach - to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city’s treated water before it’s dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

That translates into 8.5 million pounds of bleach either being poured down city drains or into the drinking water supply every year.

Say, what?

Imagine the uproar if a private company proposed bleaching its effluent to the tune of 8.5 million pounds of sodium hypochlorite annually. The Board of Supervisors would demand a halt to this unconscionable pollution, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe would produce a three-part people’s opera about it.

But if the dumping is done by the environmentally righteous . . . well, then it’s merely $114 million well spent to de-stinkify the new Green Utopia.

Just for giggles—as of this post, here are the three most popular comments on the Matier & Ross column:
2:59 AM on February 28, 2011

Low flow toilets are wonderful. I now only flush 5 times to get that poop down. Then another 5 times to get the toilet paper down.
Thumbs up (374) Thumbs down (32)


1:22 AM on February 28, 2011

Maybe they should accept the reality that a certain amount of water is needed to properly flush toilets, and the sewer system.
Thumbs up (328) Thumbs down (18)


6:05 AM on February 28, 2011

Just take a dump on the sidewalk, the city seems cool with that, no water needed. If you dont think so just watch the homeless they use the sidewalks as toilets all the time and nothing happens to them. The city council seems to encourage it, so do your part for the environment and join in the no water movement.
Thumbs up (280) Thumbs down (34)


Olfacta said...

You know, sometimes I really miss California.

The Frowzy Chickadee said...

Very funny! I think the trend in this case is not "green" but "brown"!