The Sewage Problem - Learning from History

by Bernard McCormick Wednesday, February 26, 2020 No Comment(s)

There has been quite a stink about the sewer leaks fouling streets and waterways in Fort Lauderdale. Nobody knows quite whom to blame. That regarding the past, not so much the future. The overbuilding that is going to make the problem worse in future years, if not months, was approved by planners and city commissions going back a decade.

Of all the proposed fixes for the problem, the cure for overbuilding is easiest to implement. You can’t stop the buildings already up or well along the way, although the idea of a moratorium has great appeal to those already living here. Our solution is much easier. Let the buildings go up, just don’t connect them to water. The truth is, this would likely slow sales, but if we're already being honest, the harsher truth is that some of the new buildings may be subjected to isolation by flooding. 

Those who do rent or buy in the new high rises would need to use bottled water, but because the buildings would not need plumbing, that is not too great an expense. The bigger problem is disposing of human waste, but that issue has considerable historical precedent. It was only a few centuries ago that toilets did not exist in any capacity, although the concept goes back much farther.

People in merry old England used holes in the ground, or for those lucky enough to live indoors, they had chamber pots. As recently as the 1950s, we personally were exposed to an outhouse while visiting poor relations in northern Pennsylvania. Disposing of the product in Florida requires ingenuity, but again, history is a teacher. In pre-toilet days, many people just emptied their chamber pots out the window.

If you notice, these tall buildings usually have balconies, often very small ones, and you rarely see anybody up there enjoying the view of the balconies on buildings across the street. Perhaps, in anticipation of the water crisis, the balconies were added so people could simply empty their chamber pots on the streets below. This would effectively contaminate sidewalks (and people on them), including windswept balconies on lower floors while avoiding the fuss and expense of installing pipes that will eventually break anyway. This may be one reason units on upper floors tend to be more expensive

People who wash their hands every 10 minutes may argue that our proposed waste disposal system is hardly an improvement to sewer pipes bursting and flooding streets. But after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And one of the things Romans did build was underground sewers that lasted for centuries and even rivaled modern-day systems.

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