There's Millions of Dollars Worth of Gold and Silver in Sewage  

There's gold in them thar sewers—and silver and platinum and copper, too. A study by Arizona State University (ASU) researchers estimates there is $13 million worth of precious elements in the sewage produced by a million-person city every year. Never think of sewage as stinky worthless waste again. » 1/16/15 6:40pm 1/16/15 6:40pm

Philadelphia's Newest Park Is Built on Top of a Sewage Overflow Tank

Venice Island, which officially opened this month in Philadelphia, has all the amenities you might expect from a nice city park—gardens, basketball court, amphitheater—but also something unexpected: a 4 million gallon sewage overflow tank. And you know what? A park built on top of the sewer is a very good thing. » 10/17/14 3:56pm 10/17/14 3:56pm

Chicago was raised over 4 feet in the 19th century to build its sewer

In the middle of the 19th century, Chicago embarked on a quest to literally lift itself out of the mud. Water couldn't drain from the low-lying city, so its streets became impassable swamps. The most reasonable solution, Chicago decided, was just to raise the whole goddamn city by 4 to 14 feet. » 10/15/14 1:34pm 10/15/14 1:34pm

Hunting for Water Leaks in California's Drought

California is wasting water, even when we don't realize it. Our aging underground water pipelines—in some cases nearly a century old—invariably spring leaks, thousands of them that add up to 23 billion gallons a year in California alone. » 10/08/14 11:30am 10/08/14 11:30am

Milwaukee Wants to Turn Foreclosed Homes Into Part of Its Sewer System

When it rains, it pours. It pours down streets, into sewers, and often right into people's basements. What if we could flood the abandoned basements and spare the occupied ones? Milwaukee has a novel sewer solution that just might be a silver lining in the foreclosure crisis. » 8/27/14 3:11pm 8/27/14 3:11pm

Did A "Field of Human Excrement" By The White House Kill A President?

If you remember President William Henry Harrison from U.S. history class at all, then you probably remember him as the poor fellow who died from pneumonia a month after delivering his inaugural address in freezing rain. Except was it really pneumonia after all? A New York Times article suggests a different theory, and… » 4/02/14 5:40pm 4/02/14 5:40pm

Concrete-Dissolving Bacteria Are Destroying Our Nation's Sewers

Underground in places nobody likes to look, bacteria are doing terrible things to our sewage pipes. The concrete pipes that carry our waste are literally dissolving away, forcing engineers into a messy, expensive battle against tiny microbes. » 3/28/14 1:00pm 3/28/14 1:00pm

Finally, a Way to Remove and Reuse Valuable Particles from Wastewater

When you flush the toilet, you're sending a lot of bad stuff into the sewer. But what you might not realize is that you're flushing away a lot of good stuff, too. That's why a team of German scientists have developed a method for recovering those valuable particles. » 3/24/14 12:20pm 3/24/14 12:20pm

An Inside Tour of San Francisco's Sewage Treatment Plant

If you have ever been to San Francisco, then some part of you—or some former part of you—has almost certainly passed through the city's Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant. But, considering how utterly vital it is to the city, the wastewater plant is also very much invisible, tucked away in a neighborhood no tourist… » 3/20/14 3:00pm 3/20/14 3:00pm

This Giant Mechanical Earthworm Is Fixing D.C.'s Poop Problem

Washington D.C. is overflowing with crap—and not just the sort spewed in Congress. Rather, its ancient sewage system regularly overflows, sending a literal river of poo into the city's waterways. Lady Bird is the name of the giant tunneling machine sent to stop it. » 2/17/14 12:20pm 2/17/14 12:20pm

Ecstasy in London? Heroin in Zagreb? The Answer Is Found In The Sewers

Drug users might be less than forthright about their illicit habits—but they all have to pee. With that in mind, scientists are drug-testing entire sewer systems to study just how popular illegal drugs have become. » 1/24/14 2:20pm 1/24/14 2:20pm

Toilet Paper Trends Reveal A Lot of Crap About Your Country

We all have to poop, but how we deal with it changes with age. For babies, it's diapers. For the elderly, it's, well, adult diapers. And, for most of the rest of us, it's toilet paper. » 1/20/14 4:05pm 1/20/14 4:05pm

Is Human Pee the Future of Fertilizer?

Among the things I found mortifying about my parents when I was a teenager was their habit of leaving buckets of pee in the bathroom. Instead of flushing all that phosphorous- and nitrogen-rich urine down the toilet, they saved it for our backyard vegetable garden. Pee as fertilizer has since—contrary to everything my… » 1/14/14 4:40pm 1/14/14 4:40pm

The NSA Would Like Your Sewage

When residents of Howard County, Maryland, flush their toilets, their sewage will soon end up at the NSA's new computer center several miles away. Collecting and storing so much data has been generating a whole lotta heat for the NSA—we mean this quite literally—and the agency's now buying treated wastewater to cool… » 1/06/14 9:40am 1/06/14 9:40am

Deadly Superbugs Are Breeding Like Crazy in Chinese Sewage Plants

Gird your immune system because what you're about to read will make you sick. No, seriously, it's dangerous. Like Contagion-level dangerous. » 12/19/13 12:00pm 12/19/13 12:00pm

How Diet Soda Can Be Used to Track Sewage

Fake sugar found in Ontario's tap water can be traced back to… sewage. Artificial sweeteners originating in diet soft drinks and foods survive a pretty remarkable journey through our bodies, down the toilet, through the wastewater treatment plant, into rivers, and, finally, into the water flowing out of the tap all… » 12/18/13 10:40am 12/18/13 10:40am

What Happens to Your Poop After You Flush It?

Though we may think we pump out roses when it's go time on the ivory throne, nobody in their right mind would actually want to keep those roses around. So flush them away and down the magical toilet they go! But where do they go? To the vague destination of the sewers. And then where? To the ocean? To the city… » 8/01/13 10:30pm 8/01/13 10:30pm

Without Trucks, the Tallest Building In the World Would Become the…

When I saw the Burj Khalifa in real life I was truly stunned. The tallest skyscraper in the world defies belief. Today I learned something that also defies belief: all the poop produced there has to be removed by trucks. » 11/08/11 11:49am 11/08/11 11:49am