Capitalism gives New York City a Night Life while Communism gives Pyongyang only Night

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2014

Week in Review

The American left has long had a love affair with communism.  They loved Joseph Stalin.  Until he made a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany that allowed Hitler to wage World War II.  Which devastated the left.  For they felt their true love betrayed them.  But they rejoiced when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.  So they could love Uncle Joe Stalin once again.  Even though some 20 million Soviets died because of Stalin’s nonaggression pact with Adolf Hitler.

All during the Cold War the left urged détente with the Soviet Union.  They wore t-shirts with pictures of Che Guevara.  They carried pictures of Chairman Mao.  They admired Ho Chi Minh.  They wanted to normalize relations with Cuba.  They liked Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.  And just loved Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.  When it came to communist/socialist regimes nationalizing industries and oppressing their people the left professed their undying love.  Why?  Because they hate capitalism.  Just like these communist/socialist dictators.  Who put their people ahead of profits.  Like they do in North Korea (see NASA photo shows North Korea is in the dark by Dylan Stableford posted 2/26/2014 Yahoo! News).

While you were sleeping, North Korea disappeared.

Well, not exactly. But a recent image taken from the International Space Station shows the mysterious, dictator-ruled country almost completely in the dark…

Even the capital of Pyongyang (population: 3.26 million) is a relatively dark, compared with smaller cities in neighboring South Korea and China.

The reason? According to a recent report by the Korea Institute for National Unification, electricity in North Korea is “sporadic and unreliable, with homes that have electricity often receiving just a few hours per day.” About half of North Korea’s 24 million people live in extreme poverty, with most homes and apartments “heated by open fireplaces burning wood or briquettes.” And many “lack flush toilets.”

The North Korean regime hates capitalism.  Just like the American left. Because capitalism puts profits before people.  Which is why New York City has an incredible night life unlike Pyongyang (or any other North Korean city).  Not to mention cellular networks and smartphones.  Broadway and night clubs.  Times Square and Greenwich Village.  Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.  Trains and air planes.  Allowing anyone to get where the party is.  New York City.  Things they don’t have in North Korea.  Because North Korea doesn’t have capitalism.  Like New York City.  The city that never sleeps.  Thanks to electric power lighting up the night.  Something North Korea doesn’t have.  Because North Korea doesn’t have capitalism.  Or lights.

The American left loves liberal New York City.  It is the center of their world.  Even though it was built with capitalism.  But the left loves socialism.  And communism.  Where they put people before profits.  And those people sit in the dark doing nothing once the sun sets.  And defecate in holes in the ground because they have no flush toilets.  Something else you can do all night long in heated buildings throughout New York City.  Because New York City has capitalism.  Which makes life better.  At least according to the American left.  For their favorite city is a city that capitalism built.  Unlike that communist city they’re not flying to for a good time.  Pyongyang.

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Vacuum Toilet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2013

Technology 101

The Siphon in a Flush Toilet sucks the Waste out of the Toilet Bowl

The common flush toilet in our homes is located in a bathroom.  A dedicated room in our houses.  Often times tucked away off of a bedroom.  Private and secure.  Where we can take care of any of our business with comfort and dignity.  It’s nice.  Hiding that part of our life away from the rest of the world.  In fact, some people are such nervous pooers that they can’t go anywhere but at home.  Lucky for them they didn’t live in ancient Rome where communal toilets were long benches with holes in them.  And people sat next to each other while doing their business.  Elbow to elbow.  Literally.

What makes the flush toilet in our homes possible is basically one thing.  They don’t move.  They’re permanent installations that sit on terra firma.  And because of that they can use gravity.  When we flush a toilet water pours down from a tank into a bowl.  Forcing the contents of the bowl up and over the drain out of the bowl.  The siphon.  Filling this pipe completely with water.  So that when the water falls down into the sanitary sewer pipe it creates a siphon.  Pulling everything behind it down into the sanitary drain.  Where gravity pulls it down to pipes under our houses and into the sanitary sewer system under the street in front of our house.  Where these pipes slope downhill towards the wastewater treatment plant.

The flush toilet works in our house because they don’t move.  And we can dig pipes deep underground.  Two things we can’t do on boats, trains and planes.  So early boats and trains had a simple toilet.  If you looked down into the toilet seat on a boat you saw the water.  And if you looked down into the toilet seat on a train you saw the railroad track underneath.  Which could really chill a pair of butt cheeks on a crisp winter day.  Making a cold toilet seat in your bathroom in the morning seem toasty warm by comparison.  Early planes had a chemical toilet.  Basically a port-a-potty.  Filling the air with the aroma of a construction site toilet.

The Suction of a Vacuum Toilet is greater than the Siphon of a Flush Toilet

Today in most countries you can’t defecate into a river, lake or ocean.  Or onto railroad tracks.  It’s not sanitary.  And just plain disgusting.  But because boats, trains and planes move a flush toilet with a bowl full of water just isn’t an option.  Because water in a moving bowl tends to splash out of the bowl.  Which can splash corrosive waste in nooks and crannies around the toilet.  Making a mess in the lavatory.  Though chemical toilets were an option and we used them for some time they just didn’t smell good.  Especially on an airplane.  As you just couldn’t roll the window down for some fresh air.

A flush toilet on an airplane has another problem.  Water has mass.  To carry water for flush toilets increases the weight of the airplane.  Requiring more fuel.  As fuel is the greatest cost of flying airlines and aircraft manufacturers do everything within their power to reduce the weight of an airplane.  Which is why today’s aircraft use a vacuum toilet system.  Where instead of using water and gravity to create a siphon they use a vacuum pump to create a suction.  A vacuum toilet does not use water.  There is no water in the bowl.  When you ‘flush’ a drain opens in the bottom of the bowl and a powerful vacuum sucks it clean.

The suction of a vacuum toilet is greater than the siphon of a flush toilet.  Allowing smaller pipes as the powerful suction does not allow any clogging of pipes.  Smaller pipes (and no water like in a flush toilet) reduce weight.  Helping to cut the cost of flying.  That powerful suction also sucks out all of the stink with each flush.  Another benefit of the vacuum toilet.  Which is a good thing in a small room without a window you can open.

A Truck transfers the Sanitary Waste from an Aircraft Holding Tank into the Sanitary Sewer System

Planes pitch up, pitch down and bank left and right.  Which would be a problem for wastewater moving under the force of gravity.  Or for water in a bowl.  Which is another benefit of a vacuum toilet system.  Which doesn’t use gravity.  Or water.  So the pipes of a vacuum toilet system can run in any direction.  Up, down or flat and level.  The force of the suction will pull the waste to the holding tank no matter the path it takes to the holding tank.

As the flight progresses people use the toilets.  And the holding tanks fill up with waste.  When they land they are pretty full.  And the airlines need to empty them.  If you ever watched an airplane at a gate after it lands you will see a whirlwind of activity.  Baggage and freight comes off.  Then they load baggage and freight for the next flight.  Cleaning crews enter the aircraft.  Food service cleans out the galleys and loads food and beverages for the next flight.  Fuel trucks refuel the aircraft (either from a fuel truck or a fuel hydrant system in the apron).  And then there’s the poop truck.  Which will open a hatch on the belly of the aircraft.  Connect a large hose.  Open a valve.  And drain the holding tank into the truck.  Pump in some blue disinfectant.  And make the toilets ready for the next flight.

The poop truck then drives someplace where they can dump their load.  Larger airports may have a special building for this.  Where they drive in and stop over a grate in the floor.  Dump their load onto the grate.  Water sprays onto the floor to help wash everything into and through the grate.  Where it falls into a ‘chopper’ pump to break down the solids more.  And then it enters the sanitary sewer system at the airport.  Where it uses gravity to flow downhill towards a wastewater treatment plant.  Just like it does when we use the bathroom in the privacy and security of our home.

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Outhouses and Flush Toilets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 17th, 2013

Technology 101

An Exceptional Builder of Outhouses will have the Door Swing Into the Outhouse

Before there was modern plumbing going to the bathroom often involved putting on a pair of boots and a coat.  And a short walk outside.  To a little outbuilding called an outhouse.  Which was a small shack over a hole in the ground.  With a bench with a hole in it to sit on.  Crude by today’s standards but it was living large a couple of centuries ago.  For it sure beat squatting on your haunches on a rainy day somewhere out in Mother Nature.

We’ve became very skilled in building outhouses.  Today you will see elaborate things in state parks sitting on a cement pit.  When it fills up they bring in a truck to pump it out.  So these could be rather permanent structures.  But we didn’t pump out our first outhouses.  When the hole underneath filled up we dug a new hole.  Moved the outhouse over on top of the new hole.  Cover the old hole.  Which required the outhouse to be more lightweight and portable.  Because we would move it every time the hole underneath filled up.

Now there was a certain science to building a good outhouse.  Certain considerations to take into account.  Such as where we dug the hole.  As they tended to stink having them as far away as possible from the home kept the air more enjoyable to breathe.  But it also meant longer treks during snowstorms when nature was calling.  So you didn’t want it too far.  But you didn’t want it too close.  And you especially didn’t want it anywhere near your well.  Unless you enjoyed bouts of dysentery and cholera.  And if you were making a trek through a foot or two of snow you appreciated what an exceptional builder of outhouses did for you.  He made the door open inward.  So you didn’t have to dig away a snowdrift to open the door to get inside.  Also, because they were rather lightweight, a heavy wind could blow them over.  If it fell forward onto its door you could find yourself trapped.  If the door opened inward, though, you would be able to open the door.  Get your feet onto terra firma.  And stand up and lift the outhouse upright.  Something you couldn’t do if the door opened outward.

The Flush Toilet has few Moving Parts and Operates with only Two Sources of Energy to Make it Work

Building a good outhouse required skill and experience.  Done right these wonderful things of low-tech provided years of reliable service.  Today we use another marvel of low-tech.  Allowing us to avoid a trek outdoors in a driving snowstorm when nature calls.  This marvel of engineering has brought that part of our life into the comfort and safety of our house.  A special room with a flush toilet.  Secured, heated and safe to walk to barefoot, the flush toilet has revolutionized taking care of nature’s business.  That special room inside our homes where we do more than take a bath.

What is truly amazing that people don’t even think about is that you can sit on the toilet while drawing a glass of drinking water.  We may not do this.  But we can.  (We don’t recommend this.  For flushing the toilet with the lid up could splash fecal material onto/into a drinking glass on your bathroom sink.  So if you like to drink while sitting on the toilet be sure to flush when sitting down or with the lid down).  Because of a fresh water system coming from one source.  And a sanitary sewer system going to a different destination.  Yet they come together in our bathroom.  With little chance of cross contamination.  So you could literally fill a glass of water and drink it while sitting on the toilet.  Perhaps even more incredible is that the flush toilet is the only thing in our home that is connected to both our fresh water system and our sanitary sewer system.  And still there is little risk of cross contamination.  Even an outhouse built 100 feet from the house could still contaminate your drinking water if the contents of the pit leeched into the ground water.  And came up your well.

The amazing flush toilet has few moving parts.  And operates with only two sources of energy to make it work.  The water pressure of city water.  And the human operation of the flush lever or button.  The city water fastens to the bottom of the water tank.  A water float opens and closes a water fill valve.  When the tank is full the float is at its highest, closing this valve.  When the water level in the tank drops it opens this valve and city water pressure forces water into the tank.  In case the valve sticks open there is an overflow tube to drain the excess water into the toilet bowl so it doesn’t flood the bathroom.  The tank sits on the toilet bowl.  Water enters the bowl from the tank through a 2-3″ drain hole.  A flapper valve covers this drain hole.  The weight of the water in the tank seals this watertight.  A chain runs from this flapper valve to the flush lever.  Most of the water enters the bowl via a small hole opposite a larger hole.  Where the water leaves the bowl and enters the sanitary sewer system.  The siphon.  While some of it flows out through the holes just under the rim.  The siphon curves up and then turns 180 degrees down.  The water in the bowl is at the same level as the bottom of the 180-degree turn in the siphon.  Creating a vapor lock so sewer gas can’t vent into the bathroom.

A Successful Toilet Flush requires Water to Fill the Siphon Completely and Form an Airtight Seal

Have you ever siphoned anything with a hose?  If you haven’t you can do a little experiment.  The next time you do your laundry plug the drain in the sink before the final rinse.  Get a short length of garden hose.  Place your thump over one end of the hose and fill the other end with water (you may need some help).  Once the hose is full of water place your other thumb over the other end.  Then place one end under the water level in the laundry tub.  And the other end near the floor drain (there should be one near your laundry tub).  The end of the hose at the drain will be lower than the end in the tub.  Now remove your thumbs from the ends of the hose.  You will see water run out of the hose onto the floor near the drain.  And as water leaves the hose it will pull more water into the hose from the laundry tub.  This is a siphon.  And it will keep siphoning water from the laundry tub until the water level falls below the open end of the hose in the tub.  Either when the tub is almost empty.  Or if you lift the hose out of the water.  Letting air into the hose.  Breaking the siphon.

This is how a flush toilet operates.  When you flush the toilet the chain lifts the flapper valve which will float upright as a couple of gallons of water pours into the bowl.  This rush of water will fill and seal the siphon.  As this water drains out of the siphon it will pull the water from the bowl.  As the tank drains into the bowl the siphon pulls it out, flushing it clean.  The water supply valve is open during this adding more water to this flushing action.  When the tank empties the flapper valve falls back over the drain hole.  And the tank refills with water.  When the volume of water flowing into the bowl reduces air enters the siphon.  Which, of course, breaks the siphon.  Ending the flushing cycle.  The water in the bowl settles at the height of the bottom of the 180-degree turn in the siphon.

The key for a successful flush is a large volume of water.  For unless the water fills the siphon completely and forms an airtight seal there will be no siphon.  And the toilet bowl won’t empty.  You can see this by pouring water into the bowl slowly.  When you do the water level doesn’t change.  And the toilet doesn’t flush.  The water just spills over the 180-degree turn in the siphon and into the sanitary drain pipe.  Only when there is a large volume of water flowing into the bowl will enough water flow into the siphon to form that airtight seal.  Allowing us to do our business without getting dressed and trudging outside through 2-foot snowdrifts in the middle of January.  Without worrying the building won’t blow over while we’re sitting inside doing our business.  Like they sometimes once did.  Despite how state of the art they were at one time.

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Bill Gates trying to Reinvent the Toilet for Countries without Clean Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2012

Week in Review

Our bodily excretions are among the less pleasant things we do as humans.  For there is little dignity while having a bowel movement.  In modern countries we can at least do that behind closed doors.  But in developing countries they have no such luxuries as a closed bathroom door and a flush toilet to sit on.  And a sink with clean water to wash our hands in afterwards.  It’s kept us clean as a people.  And allowed people to work more closely together.  Even filling massive high-rises full of people.  Who can at anytime go to a clean restroom on their floor for a discrete and clean bowel movement.  Something we all take for granted.  Little realizing what a great gift that is (see Bill Gates challenges scientists to reinvent toilet by AP posted 8/15/2012 on The Telegraph).

Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder has challenged scientists to reinvent the lavatory for the 2.5 billion people in the world who have no access to modern sanitation…

The United Nations estimates disease caused by unsafe sanitation results in about half the hospitalisation in the developing world. About 1.5 million children die each year from diarrheal disease.

Scientists believe most of these deaths could be prevented with proper sanitation, along with safe drinking water and improved hygiene…

Flush lavatories waste tons of potable drinking water each year, fail to recapture reusable resources like the potential energy in solid waste and are simply impractical in so many places.

Yes, flush toilets are horrible.  Except, of course, in preventing mass hospitalization and death by diarrheal disease for millions of children.  Which is pretty nice to prevent.  But apart from making the developed world a much healthier place to live and to raise your children, what has the flush toilet done for us?

Yes, building a better toilet for the undeveloped world may help the undeveloped world.  But developing the undeveloped world would help them more.  It would give them flush toilets AND clean drinking water, hospitals, schools, grocery stores, etc.  And you don’t need to be blessed with natural resources to make this happen.  Two of the best places to live, Hong Kong and Singapore, are not blessed with natural resources.  But they have vibrant economies.  And it’s that vibrant free market economy that makes them great places to live.  And, of course, flush toilets.

High-tech toilets are nice.  But there are things better than high-tech toilets.  Like clean drinking water.  And wastewater treatment plants.  They’ve done great things in the developed world.  Even gave us the wealth to help the undeveloped world.  Because our hospitals aren’t full of people dying from diarrheal disease.  Instead they’re living healthy lives and contributing to vibrant economies.

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Outhouse, City Water, Sanitary Sewer System, Flush Toilet, Water Trap, Soil Stack, Sanitary Lift Stations, Weir Dam and Overflow Spillways

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 11th, 2012

Technology 101

Before Indoor Plumbing People had to Walk some 50 Feet in Rain, Snow or Shine to go to the Bathroom

On the American sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, Jed Clampett wasn’t sure if he should move his family to Beverly Hills after they found oil on his land.  He asks his cousin Pearl for advice.  She says, “Jed, how can you even ask? Look around you. You live eight miles from your nearest neighbor. You’re overrun with skunks, possums, coyotes, and bobcats. You use kerosene lamps for light.  You cook on a wood stove, summer and winter. You’re drinkin’ homemade moonshine, and washin’ with homemade lye soap. And your bathroom is fifty feet from the house. And you ask should you move!?”  Jed thinks about all of this and replies, “Yeah, I reckon you’re right. Man’d be a dang fool to leave all this.”  (This exchange begins at 11:40 on The Beverly Hillbillies (Season 1 – Ep. 1) The Clampetts Str).

On the American sitcom I Love Lucy, Tennessee Ernie Ford comes to visits the Ricardos in New York City.  On the day of his arrival, as he prepares to go to bed, he walks out of the apartment through the kitchen door with his suitcase.  Lucy and Ricky look at each other perplexed.  After a few minutes he comes back in and walks out of the apartment through the living room door.  After a few minutes he returns and approaches Ricky.  And whispers in his ear.  Exasperated, Ricky points and says, “Through the bedroom.”  In stunned disbelief Ernie says, “You mean it’s in the house?”  Ricky nods.  Ernie walks towards the bathroom and says, “Wait till I tell Mama about this.”  (See I Love Lucy Tennessee Ernie Visits).

Once upon a time, before indoor plumbing, people headed out of their house some 50 feet to go to the bathroom.  In rain, snow or shine.  To an outhouse.  Away from the main house.  Because of the stink.  And to keep their waste from seeping into the water table.  So their waste didn’t contaminate their drinking water.  So when they ever felt the call of nature they took that long walk.  Pushed open the door and squatted.  (Interesting fact: all outhouse doors open in for safety.  For if you were inside when a strong wind tipped the outhouse over you could open the door and then stand up, lifting the outhouse upright).  Or if it was a deluxe outhouse you may have sat down on some wooden planks.  Living like this was all well and fine when your nearest neighbor was 8 miles away.  Or in a suburban community with deep backyards.  For you could put your outhouse at the back fence.  Like your neighbor across the fence.  You can.  And some have.  But it’ll put a stink in the air.  And provide little privacy to do those most personal of things.  For when your neighbor sees the lady of the house walking back there it’s no secret what she’s going to do.

Flush Toilets are Possible thanks to City Water, Sanitary Sewer Systems, Water Traps and Stack Vents

Moving the bathroom into the house gave us true privacy.  So a lady could have a bowel movement without her neighbors knowing about it.  Two things made this possible.  City water.  And a sanitary sewer system.  These two things gave us the flush toilet.  A true marvel of engineering.  A porcelain bowl that holds a small amount of water.  Sitting on top of a pipe that ties into the sanitary sewer system.  A thing that makes the stink of an outhouse seem like a bouquet of roses.  Yet that stink doesn’t enter our homes.  Why?  Because of a simple thing called a water trap.  They come in a couple of shapes but typically have a u-shape somewhere in them.  Water enters and leaves at higher elevations.  Leaving the lower part always filled with water.  Providing a water seal between us and the stink of the sewer.  Thus preventing gases from entering our homes.  We build this trap right into our toilets.  On some models you can actually see the curly path the bowl drains into on the side of the toilet.

On top of the toilet base is a water tank.  With a valve and a float.  City water (under a slight pressure from the water plant) enters the tank through this valve.  When the tank is empty the valve is open and the water flows into the tank.  When the tank fills the float rises and closes the valve, shutting off the water flow.  At the bottom of the tank is a flapper valve.  When the tank is full of water the weight of the water presses down on this valve, sealing it shut.  When we flush the toilet we lift this flapper valve via a chain connected to a lever we operate with the flush handle on the toilet.  When we lift the valve the water in the tank can flow into the toilet bowl, washing the contents of the bowl into the pipe the toilet sits on.  As the water empties from the tank the flapper valve falls and seals the tank.  And with no water in the tank the float falls, opening the valve so water can refill the tank.

While the toilet tank fills because of the slight pressure they keep our city water under, the sanitary sewer system works under gravity alone.  All sewer lines in a building slope downward.  When they join other pipes they join in a ‘Y’ connection to make sure the new water entering another pipe enters flowing in the same direction of the water already in the pipe.  So as not to create any agitations or backpressure to the gravitational pull on the water.  To keep this water flowing in the downward direction.  If you have a basement in your house you can see a lot of this.  Downward sloping.  Y-fittings.  And you’ll also see one or two vertical pipes.  Soil stacks.  That other horizontal pipes run into.  Your sanitary waste (from floor drains, showers, sinks and toilets) flows to these soil stacks and down to a pipe under the floor that runs out to the sanitary line under the street.  If you follow these soil stacks up you’ll notice that they run all the way through the basement ceiling.  They in fact run all the way up and out through your roof.  Those little pipes you see protruding from your roof are stack vents.  These stack vents are critical in helping gravity work in your sanitary plumbing system.  By keeping a neutral pressure inside the pipes.  Making air pressure inside the pipes equal to the air pressure inside the house.  By equaling the air pressure on either side of the water traps the water stays in these traps.  If the system wasn’t vented the water wouldn’t stay in these traps.  As the column of falling water would compress the air below it creating a high pressure.  While creating a low pressure or vacuum above it.  Which would suck the water from the traps into the system above the falling water column.  And blow out the traps below the column.  Which would be rather nasty in the bathroom.  For it would blow raw sewage out of your toilet.  And onto you should you be in the bathroom at the time.

Sanitary Lift Stations have Backup Power and Failsafe Designs like Weir Dams and Overflow Spillways

At the beginning of all sanitary sew systems the pipes are their smallest.  Like inside a house where they connect to a floor drain, shower, sink or toilet.  As they join other pipes the pipe size increases.  To accommodate the increase in water volume.  The biggest pipe in a house is the one running to the sanitary line under the street in front of the house.  Which is a much bigger pipe as a sanitary line from each house connects to this line.  So it has to be big enough to handle all of the flow if everyone flushed their toilets at the same time.  Like at halftime during the Super Bowl.  And the pipes these ‘street mains’ connect to have to be even bigger.  For multiple ‘street mains’ connect to them.  And as more pipes join together they connect to even larger pipes.  And every one of these pipes is sloped downward to maintain the flow of water.  Pulled along by gravitational forces alone.  Which causes a problem.  Because continuously sloping bigger and bigger pipes downward will drive these pipes deeper and deeper underground.  Which can’t go on indefinitely.  As the ultimate destination is a wastewater treatment plant.  Which we typically don’t build underground.

So along the way we have to raise this wastewater so it can start its downward course again at a level closer to the surface.  We call these points sanitary lift stations.   Where a big pipe enters a wet well inside the station at a low elevation.  And exits the station at a higher elevation.  As water enters the wet well the water level slowly rises.  When the level reaches a certain elevation an automatic control system turns on pumps.  But not just any kind of pumps.  Some pumps with teeth.  That can grind up any solid waste that enters the sanitary sewer system.  From human waste.  To used condoms.  To feminine hygiene products.  And the myriad of other things that we shouldn’t flush down our toilets but do.  These pumps can pretty much grind up anything and spit it out into the discharge pipe of the station at a higher elevation.  So this wastewater can continue its journey to the wastewater treatment plant.

Some cities have a combined storm water and sanitary sewer system.  Which can tax the system during heavy rains.  For the water flowing into these wet wells will keep that level rising to a point the pumps may run continuously.  And should there be some damaging winds that take down the electrical grid these lift stations will throw-over to an emergency backup generator.  To keep those pumps running when we need them most.  To keep the water from rising too high in the wet well.  And the pipes feeding it.  For if those pipes fill up completely there will be no place for new water entering the sewer system to go.  Water will rise in manholes.  And out onto our streets.  Even out of our floor drains and into our houses.  As this would be a grave public health concern they often build failsafe protection in the sewer system.  The feed to the lift station will be a Y-connection.  Just past this will be a weir dam in the pipe.  A dam that blocks only the lower portion of the sewer pipe.  The pipe past this will run to some spillway into a river, lake or ocean.  If the flow in the pipe is too great for the lift station’s capacity it will spill over the weir dam and flow untreated directly into a larger body of water.  While this is bad it doesn’t happen often.  As it typically takes a ‘once in a hundred years’ rain to overtax a system.  And when it does there is so much storm water in the system that it greatly dilutes the harmful pathogens in the wastewater.

Our Sanitary Sewage Systems allow us to Draw Clean Drinking Water in the Same Room we Poop In 

Sanitary systems are gravity systems upstream.  As they get further downstream they get an assist from pumps.  As well as other powered valve and gates to redirect the water flow as necessary.  The bigger our cities get and the denser our city populations grow these active components become ever more critical to the gravity systems upstream.  So we provide backup power systems and failsafe designs.  We do everything possible to keep that wastewater flowing downstream and out of our homes.

Some of the greatest public health crises happen when these active systems break down.  For the power of gravity may influence our world a lot.  But the power of water is something to fear.  Especially when we lose control of it.  From tsunamis that overwhelm sewage systems in our coastal areas.  To 100-year rains that overwhelm our sewage systems in our interior areas.  To lift stations that fail and reverses the flow of wastewater in our sewage systems.  Worse yet is the discharge of raw sewage into our freshwater supplies.  That contaminate our fresh drinking water.  It doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s a health crisis of the first order.

But most times these systems work so well that we never think about them.  And can’t even imagine what life was like when you had to bundle up in the middle of winter and wade through thigh-deep snow to get to your bathroom.  Sitting on wooden planks in an unheated structure with the wind blowing through the slats.  Today we’re spoiled.  Not only do we not have to bundle up our bathrooms are heated.  And only a few steps away from us.  Because they are in the house.  Thanks to our sanitary sewage systems.  That can keep up with the waste production in our largest cities.  And allow us to draw clean drinking water in the same room we poop in.  If you really think about that it’s hard not to be as amazed as cousin Ernie was in I Love Lucy.

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One of the most Basic Comforts of Life, the Flush Toilet, goes back to Trade with the Indus Valley Civilization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 1st, 2011

History 101

The Earliest Discovery of an Indoor Flush Toilet goes all the way Back to India

The first First Lady to live at the White House was Abigail Adams.  Wife of the second U.S. president.  The great John Adams.  They moved into the White House while it was still under construction.  And long before it had indoor plumbing.  So when the First Lady had to do her business she did so like most everyone at that time did.  She visited the outhouse.  Which was in full view of the general public.  So everyone knew what she was doing when she was doing her business.  Not a dignified moment for America’s First Lady.

Today when a lady has to poop we spare her this indignity.  For we have indoor flush toilets.  And when they go into the bathroom they always emerged with fresh makeup and coifed hair.  So we have no idea what they’re doing in the powder room.  Pooping.  Or just making themselves beautiful.  Which makes a trip to the toilet never an embarrassing moment these days.  Like it was for poor Abigail Adams.  If only we had indoor flush toilets during Mrs. Adams time.

The funny thing is, we did.  Not in America.  But in ancient Rome.  For the Romans had flush toilets.  Some 2000 years before they had them in America.  But the Romans didn’t invent this luxury.  No.  They were great engineers.  Great builders.  But they weren’t great mathematicians and scientists.  The Greeks were.  The Romans took the great learning of the Greeks and built great things.  But the indoor flush toilet even predates the Greeks.  The earliest discovery of an indoor flush toilet goes all the way back to India.  To the Indus Valley Civilization.  And the ancient city of Harappa.

The Greeks may have Learned about Sanitary Sewers and Flush Toilets from the Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was one of the four first big civilizations.  Along with Egypt in the Nile Valley.  Sumer in the Fertile Crescent.  And the Chinese in the Hwang-Ho valley.  They started out independently.  Then their trade routes eventually crossed.  And they learned from each other.  Through their trade.

We don’t know a lot about the IVC.  For we haven’t been able to decipher their early writing.  Yet.  But what we do know is that they had a remarkably advanced city infrastructure.  And that they traded.  They had the wheel.  And boats.  They traded overland into Central Asia and the Iranian Plateau.  And over water to Mesopotamia.  Where they traded with the Sumerians.  And the people who followed the Sumerians traded with the Greeks.

The Sumerians were probably the first to map the stars and planets.  The Greeks may have used this work as the foundation for their astronomy.  And it may not be the only thing they learned from the Sumerians.  For it is likely they learned about the IVC from their friends in Mesopotamia.  And took what they learned about sanitary sewers and flush toilets back to Greece.  Where the Romans eventually learned about it.

Germanic Barbarian Tribes brought the Western Roman Empire and the Indoor Flush Toilet to an End

Trade is not just about goods and services.  We trade knowledge, too.  And the knowledge we gain makes our civilization better.  More advanced.  Giving us as higher quality of life.  All through peaceful means.  Of course those on the outside looking in, the uncivilized barbarians beyond the frontiers of civilization, prefer plunder over trade.  And less peaceful means.

It was the Germanic tribes north of the Western Roman Empire that eventually conquered this advanced civilization.  Which turned back the hands of time.  And Introduced the Dark Ages.  Plunging us back into a backward world.  Where we lost much of our knowledge.  And the modern comforts of life.  Including the flush toilet.

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