Last time I had the plumber out here, he observed the toilet in action, and pronounced its flush “good.” On the downside, it uses, if not a literal ton of water, certainly more than would be permissible in eco-conscious San Francisco. Then again, they’re having some unexpected issues these days:

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.

In response, they’re taking a time-tested approach to de-stenching:

[O]fficials 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.

There are drawbacks to this approach — chlorine oxidizes organic contaminants, which have to be screened out before the bleach goes in — but let’s face it, they’re not going to issue a Please Flush Twice order.

Somewhere, Al Bundy is snickering.


  1. Tatyana »

    1 March 2011 · 8:39 am

    As a LEED Accredited Professional, I am not merely snickering, I’m Laughing Out Loud.
    gee, no textbook had predicted this!

  2. fillyjonk »

    1 March 2011 · 8:41 am

    How long before the environmentalists who want to ban the use of chlorine (yes, there are some) speak up on this? I mean, this being San Fran and all, we’re gonna hear all sides, even the crackpot ones.

  3. CGHill »

    1 March 2011 · 8:48 am

    Right on cue:

    San Francisco’s plan to dump 27 million pounds of concentrated bleach into our water system, at a taxpayer bill of $14 million, would be an environmental disaster.

    They suggest milder chemicals, or if possible, probiotics.

  4. fillyjonk »

    1 March 2011 · 9:21 am

    Yogurt down the loo? Yeah, that’ll work.

  5. nightfly »

    1 March 2011 · 4:28 pm

    Why not just send more water down the loo? You’re sanitzing and reclaiming it all anyway at the sewage treatment plants, right? Putting it back into Mother Gaia all Brita’d up?

  6. Tatyana »

    1 March 2011 · 5:26 pm

    Wait a minute…the greenies can’t even understand the cause and effect sequence. In that article they sent to the paper they propose hydrogen peroxide and pro-biotics to fight the smell. Nothing to address the problem of low water pressure, i.e. clogged pipes – but of course, it is the “water conservation” credit they are concerned with. Let the…stuff…marinate, just remove the stink.

  7. CGHill »

    1 March 2011 · 5:37 pm

    I can’t really blame SF for wanting to curb water consumption a bit; demand continues to grow, and the supply is somewhat limited. (Rather a lot is drawn from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, way up in Yosemite, which requires a spendy aqueduct.) And governments, when you can get them to respond, tend to respond to whatever is getting the most complaints at the moment.

  8. Tatyana »

    1 March 2011 · 5:45 pm

    Water consumption is a worthy concern, but it is a red herring. Standard engineering task: you have a problem, look at the underlying reason it occurred, then evaluate various solutions per their cost/code compliance/consequences, etc.
    In this case, if water consumption a priority, what could be other engineering solutions to “flashing” problem (because the problem is definitely not smell – it’s a consequence). I’m sure there must be few different ways to dispose of refuse collection in the sewers – it’s what city’s engineers are for, to find cost-effective and least harmful technical solution.

  9. CGHill »

    1 March 2011 · 5:59 pm

    It occurs to me that herring, red or otherwise, might smell better.

  10. Lisa Paul »

    1 March 2011 · 8:09 pm

    What I don’t understand is that we have a methane to electricity plant that recycles dog poo from city parks and dog-related businesses (kennels, etc.). It actually is on track to power all of the city’s schools within the next year or two (it generates a good amount of power now.)

    Can’t we divert the “contents” of the city’s sewers over there? Or would the solution be that we use baggies like our dogs do.

  11. Tatyana »

    1 March 2011 · 8:10 pm

    *roll eye*

  12. CGHill »

    1 March 2011 · 9:30 pm

    This topic has come up at Daily Pundit — not surprisingly, since the proprietor thereof lives in SF — and Lorenzo comments thereupon:

    The simplest solution is to flush the mains periodically with bay water, in the middle of the night. The treatment plant won’t be overloaded in that low-usage period, and the mains will smell like the bay instead of, um, how they smell now. Pumps and a feeder line to the high points in the system would be cheaper, long term, than bleach, and the sewer mains would retain their maximum capacity.

    Anyone see a problem with this scenario? I have no experience with anything larger than a toilet valve.

  13. Tatyana »

    2 March 2011 · 5:14 am

    I’m not a plumbing engineer, the solution seems valid enough to me -with one minus: if they will do it, all their “water conservation” credits will be null, and the big question will arise, why go for all this trouble with change of WC, renovations of sewer systems in commercial R.E. and adaptation of city water purification plants in the first place?

  14. fillyjonk »

    2 March 2011 · 6:35 am

    Why not “recycle” water from the treatment plant and use it for the midnight flushings (if that’s even possible), if they’re concerned about how much water they’re using?

    I know some municipalities talk about sending the water from the treatment plants directly back into the system, but citizens tend to stop that from happening, because no one wants to think they might be drinking pee-pee water. (Under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t, but if something went wrong with the treatment plant…well, it could be pretty awful).

    I mean, nature recycles water. Those of us who drink water from reservoirs, as W.C. Fields once said, “fish function in it.”

  15. McGehee »

    2 March 2011 · 9:00 am

    Untreated bay water shouldn’t count against water conservation. What might be a question is the effect of the salt water on the mains, but I suppose if they can withstand what they usually convey maybe salt wouldn’t be a problem.

  16. Tatyana »

    2 March 2011 · 9:03 am

    McG: these are two different LEED credits: a) for recycling already used, treated water b) for lowering the usage of “new intake”. Both count towards green LEED point credits.

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