The human race today owes a major debt of gratitude to whoever first came up with the idea of putting up sewers to handle our waste. It’s hard to imagine life today without sewers. On second thought, it would be easy to imagine life without sewers, because if sewers or sanitation systems were not implemented widely in the 19th and 20th centuries, the planet wouldn’t be as overly populated as it is today. Without sanitation systems, billions of people would have died across the decades because of the filth the human race would be finding itself mired in.
It cannot be stated enough how important sewers are to our existence as a race. As our way of recognizing that fact, we’d like to present to you some interesting facts about sewers that many of us probably don’t know.
1. Sewers have been in existence for thousands of years
Many credit the Romans for having developed sewer systems, but there is proof that sewers already existed long before that. Archaeologists say the ancient Indus Valley civilization city of Mohenjo-Daro, which predates the Romans by more than two thousand years, had sophisticated sewers that featured brick-lined pits no different to modern septic tanks and enclosed drains that carried both sewage and stormwater out of the city.
2. There are three types of sewer systems
Most of us lump sewers under one category, but there are actually three distinct types of sewer systems: Foul or sanitary sewers, which carry wastewater from our homes into wastewater treatment plants; surface water or storm sewers, which carry rainwater from roof and roads into streams and rivers; and combined sewers, which are a single pipe system which carries both wastewater and surface water to wastewater treatment works.
3. The world’s biggest wastewater treatment plant
Cicero, Illinois is home to the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, which treats approximately 1.44 billion gallons of wastewater a day. It serves 2.4 million people living in Chicago as well as 43 suburban communities.
4. Billions of people around the world still lack sanitation
Sewer systems have been around for thousands of years, but around 2.6 billion people around still don’t have access to any form of sanitation system whatsoever.
5. Hundreds of millions of human waste still go untreated
Every year, approximately 200 million tons of human waste never go through any kind of treatment.
‘Fatbergs” is the name given by people who work the sewers of London to the floating chunks of grease and oil that cause blockages and wreak havoc on the city’s sewer system. The biggest fatberg to have been removed from a sewer is one the size of a bus, and made up of approximately 15 tonnes of fat mixed with wet wipes. This particular fatberg was so big it reduced the sewer it was found in to just five percent of its normal capacity.
7. Sewers are still the favourite dumping ground for all kinds of stuff
Despite countless warnings not to flush anything other than human waste in toilets, sewer workers still complain that all sorts of things continue to be dumped in the sewer systems. Countless condoms, tampons, wet wipes, cotton buds, syringes, paint and building waste and even pets are regularly flushed down toilets into already strained sewer systems.
It bears repeating that you should always watch what you flush into the toilet. If you run out of toilet paper, never use paper towels. Paper towels are not designed to be flushed down the toilet. They do not dissolve easily the way toilet paper does, and can easily cause backups just like wet wipes.