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Most of us take modern plumbing for granted. We don’t really think about flushing toilets that magically whisk away our waste. It’s probably a good thing that we don’t dwell on the mechanics of contemporary plumbing systems and the sewers that they link to. Here are some interesting facts about sewer systems that may make you think twice next time you use the toilet.
There are Sewer Systems in Use Today that Pre-Date Bathrooms
The majority of American’s don’t know where their waste goes once it’s flushed. Those with private septic tanks do because they oversee the maintenance of their septic systems, for the rest of us, it’s a mystery. Pipes carry wastewater from the people on public septic systems to treatment plants. When the treatment plants or the sewer systems that transport waste to them fail, people can become gravely ill from pathogens in wastewater.
One study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in 2015 illustrated that hospital visits for gastrointestinal problems dramatically increased after heavy rain because of failures in municipal combined-sewer systems. These combined systems are the largest category of sewer infrastructure that needs to be fixed and affect people in 32 states in the U.S.
Some of these sewers have served people for over 100 years and the cost to fix them is staggering. When these combined systems have to handle storm surge mixed in with the waste, the volume of water that the equipment has to process increases and there will likely be overflow into nearby bodies of water. Thinking of these pathogens flowing into the water we drink or play in would keep anyone up at night.
Scary Things Blocking Drains
Other nightmarish sewer problems include the scariest things that people have found blocking plumbing and sewer drains.
Alligators found in sewer drains are one of the most popular myths in the United States. However, it may not be a complete myth. Apparently in 1935, the New York City Superintendent of Sewers, Teddy May found many alligators (as in more than one!), living in the sewer pipes below New York City. This story is likely a myth, but perhaps in a place like Florida, it wouldn’t be so far-fetched (although we at Art Rooter, Sewer & Drain Cleaning have yet to encounter any)!
A Giant Pig
Known as the Black Swine of London, this story is one that most of us have never heard because it originated in London in the 1800s. The story says that a pregnant sow got stuck in the sewer and was able to survive off of a diet of garbage and other unsavory items. Pigs do eat anything, so that’s not beyond the realm of possibilities.
More stories circulated throughout that century of other people seeing enormous black pigs in the sewers. Perhaps someone should have tried to get the pigs out if this is a true story.
Giant spiders really do live in sewers. If you’ve ever seen pictures or videos of toilets in campgrounds or rougher areas with spiders that crawl out from under the rim of the toilet or up the pipe, you’ll check every toilet before you sit on it for the rest of your life. With all of the creepy crawlies in sewers, giant spiders probably do lurk in our sewer systems.
Sewer Rats in Toilets and Drains
Sewer rats can climb up your plumbing pipes and this definitely isn’t an urban legend. It’s a real problem. How would you like to walk into your bathroom to see a rat scampering from your toilet? Sewer rats or Norway rats are excellent swimmers. Some species can tread water for 3 days. They can even hold their breath up to 3 minutes. As far as distance, some can swim up further than a mile. Still skeptical? The only water the rat encounters is in your toilet. They also have hinging rib cages. Do you feel safe because you don’t live in a metropolitan city? Think again, sewer rats are found any place with indoor plumbing and pipes that they can fit through. Now, that’s a sewer nightmare.
These examples are just a few of the nightmares with sewer systems that will keep you up at night. Though we don’t know that all of them are true, most of them certainly are plausible so beware on your next trip to the bathroom and ask yourself, “what’s in your plumbing pipes?”