Oh, shit

One of the most intriguing things about living in the first world is the way in which waste water is handled.

For a large portion of the world’s population, getting up close and personal with your body products is a fact of life. Perhaps you have an outhouse or privy. Maybe you have chamber pots and a “night-soil man.” If you live somewhere particularly far flung, it’s possible you simply pop outside and relieve yourself in a convenient looking spot. But in the first world, we poop in toilets, and we flush it, and it goes away.

On the other end of the system, when we want water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning, or whatever nefarious purpose you can think of for water, we open taps and it gushes out, often with an odd chemical taste from the treatments used by the city. (Or rich in iron from your own well, if you live in a rural area.) Potable, easily accessible drinking water is very much a part of our lives–so much a part, indeed, that we take it for granted.

traveling abroad is always eye opening for me because it reminds me that there is a growing global water crisis. Most of the world does not have access to fresh water. A lot of the world’s water is polluted by sewage and bodily waste which is dumped directly into rivers, streams, and the ocean. We are poisoning the earth, drowning in our own waste.

What spurred my thoughts on water today is there are beginning to be…rumblings…about our “wastewater” plant. In short, the plant is beyond repair. Although it sounds like basic maintenance has been performed, it is over thirty years old, and dangerous. It sounds like a hazardous and unpleasant work environment, and I applaud the city employees who keep it running on what sounds like a shoestring. Every recommendation is that we should rebuild the plant, not attempt to repair it.

However, no one wants to commit to rebuilding the plant because it would cause a price increase. I understand that many residents of the city are poor–I am one of them. But I do not feel that an increase of less than twenty dollars to improve the way in which my wastewater is treated is unreasonable. I do not think that paying a small additional sum each month to ensure that the people who deal with my shit are safe is an undue burden. Frankly, I am embarrassed that there is even debate over this issue–the plant should be replaced, as soon as possible, and we will figure out how to bear the cost as a community. Access to wastewater treatment is a luxury, to be sure, but treating our waste in a healthy and efficient manner is also good for the earth, so why are we wasting time?

[Fort Bragg}