Feeling Flush

We’ve always been a very environmentally aware family. It’s a point of pride that we have an overflowing recycling bin but rarely more than 2 or three trash bags in the bin on Trash Day. We use cloth napkins. Our appliances are low flow/high efficiency. Our daughter “upcycles” things like plastic bags into practical totes and artwork. We keep the house a bit too warm in the summer and a bit too cool in the winter. If it weren’t for the cost, we’d have replaced all the windows, doors and toilets with higher efficiency versions by now.

Recently, we had to repair our sewer line and replace the water line. We also discovered roots in the sewer line closer to the street. Water still flowed, so we figured that careful monitoring of what went into the line, periodic root kill treatment and monthly doses of a biologically active pipe cleaner had a good chance of keeping that second expensive repair at bay for a while.

We also got much more careful with what went into the sewer. Nothing into the toilets except, um, biological necessities, with tiny amounts of toilet tissue. Mesh traps in the showers and kitchen sink. Minimal use of the disposal.

That’s where the surprise came from – and quite the awakening.

The amount of stuff that goes into our water systems is amazing. Even with our being very good to save our leftovers, the amount of foodstuff that we’d been grinding up was stunning. At the least, it should make for quite the compost pile. The hair in the bathtubs is far more than I ever could have imagined. I don’t even want to think about what we’ve been flushing down the toilets, simply because we could. It’s a truly stunning amount of, well, stuff.

All of that material gets washed into the water system, where it has to get broken down chemically before it can be removed. That’s a lot of residue and unnatural additive that gets released into the watershed downstream. It’s also a rather sobering amount of chemistry that we’re having to put into our water to help clean up what we inherit from whomever is upstream from us. It’s a huge amount of waste, pun fully intended.

If we’re generating this much biohazard, just how much abuse does the typical creek, river or lake absorb on a daily basis? And that doesn’t even take into account fertilizer runoff, gas and oil from motorboat engines or industrial effluvium.

Yeah, it’s kind of obvious, and it’s something I should have realized before now. It became something visible, even tangible, and that makes it much more real. Clean running water is an amazing thing and we take it for granted. It’s yet another example of something where, just because the damage isn’t visible, doesn’t mean that damage isn’t being done.

~ by jld0077 on May 10, 2013.

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