The wisdom is that you have to blog in order to be relevant, so I’ve decided to take some risks here with my blogging. My subject matter will always be true stories, but might be embellished a bit to give humor and a little bit of insight into areas of improvement I might suggest (if I was King), or regulations that could use some tweaking (because they are inefficient, wasteful or a combination of these; making them stupid). This in no way reflects the need for thoughtful regulation or the people who work hard to satisfy the concerns of folks needing both jobs and a livable planet. Regulations aren’t bad-we used to have rivers on fire. Then somebody suggested that was bad. We’re doing the best we can. With everything being so apocalyptic-sometimes you just need to laugh.
Poisonous drinking water in your house?
So last summer my guys were installing an epoxy liner in a pipe in the city of Seattle. A standard practice for us is to circulate hot water through the bladder in the liner in order to force the cure time and get our customer back into service as soon as possible. We connect to the customer hose bib; circulate the water through our tankless water heater. From there it goes into the bladder that is inside the liner in the ground. It comes out of the bladder after giving some of its’ heat to the liner and epoxies and then spills harmlessly on the ground. It doesn’t pick up any antibiotics or hormones along the way-you can drink the water coming out of the tube. We generally use it to make hot beverages to sell to passerby’s (green tea, of course) so that the cycle of reuse and renewal is complete. I would imagine that at some point these passerby’s eventually get rid of the stuff; thereby hastening the demise of another sewer pipe. Soon, my crew and I have one more sewer pipe to repair and my goal of total world pipe domination is one step closer. Now before you jump to conclusions and decide to go wash your hair-give me a second here. You can’t make this stuff up.
So my crew is happily repairing another pipe without digging up the road. Of course, commuters are happy because they are using the road and not stuck in a traffic jam created by having the road dug up. The owner of the pipe is happy because they aren’t taking out another student loan to pay for the repair, the liner is happy because it’s all warm and wet, and of course, I am happy because I am one step closer to world pipe domination. (I intend to dominate pipes on Mars also, we’re currently negotiating a franchise agreement with NASA-unless the Russians offer us more.).
But WAIT; the city of Seattle is NOT happy. Seems the permit fee was not enough. A young man appears from the mist, identifying himself as a city employee from the environmental compliance section. He seems really tall, what with the backlighting and the mist and the fact that the rest of us are in a hole. “Where is this water coming from that you are spilling out onto the road?” His voice seems to boom as it echoes off the buildings in the distance. “Your majesty” (my foreman is awestruck) he continues, “it is tap water” The tea customers start gagging and holding their throats. ‘You can’t spill it onto the road” the earnest strait faced young man says.
At this point, the brightness of the day disappeared and clouds obscured the brightest star in our solar system. There was a general sense of confusion that happens when you hit your head on a low beam as you’re running. “This water ends up in the storm drain system and eventually in Lakes Union and Washington and the Puget Sound”. “It can contain fluoride, and small parts of chlorine and that’s bad for fish”, he continued.
“But we drink it”, my foreman protested.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t fish also deserve clean crisp chemically fortified water? Aren’t fish teeth just as important as ours? Don’t you think they teach anything to young fish in fish schools?
As my mind was swimming-it swam back to an event that I had attended a few weeks earlier. It was called “Wellspring” and it promised to be an epiphany for me. I remember when the event came up on my e-mail, I cancelled everything I had planned for two days so I could attend it; at the local trade and convention center. It was sponsored by the EPA and was all about water quality. It had so many engineers and PHD headliners that I couldn’t wait to rub shoulders and learn all I could from them. Besides, watching really educated people get drunk and try to outdo each other is fun. Plus, I’d get a chance to compare my PHD with theirs. I keep my Post Hole Digger in the barn.
One gal presented a program that the local county was doing whereby they were removing chemicals and heavy metals from roof drains by running the water through dirt. Actually, they had sequestered layers of drain rock, dirt and humus (not the kind you put on crackers) inside of very large plastic water containers. The water was tested before and after and the results we dramatic! After 4 years the water still had one part hydrogen and two parts oxygen! Better still- most of the pollutants were still being removed! I don’t remember what they did with the contaminated mixture, but I suggest they sell it to the Chinese so they can build more islands. China needs more land because they are growing fast and they need to offset the land lost to dam reservoirs. Isn’t economics wonderful? It’s like a global garage sale. Your junk is someone else’s treasure. We buy all kinds of it from them.
Anyway, they changed the contaminated water to contaminated dirt thereby proving Einstein’s theory that you can change things-but you can’t make everybody happy-in fact it just gets more complicated. You just have to know who you have to make happy and when. The Romans and the Greeks knew it and forgot it. Genghis Kahn knew it, but used a different business model. Mothers everywhere know it and they’re really good at it. The men just take all the credit.
So my neanderthal sewer mind was busy calculating the extra costs I was gonna have to recoup to bring a tanker truck to hold the poisonous water until I could find a sink I could pour it into.
This is how it happens, folks. This is why the Chinese are beating us. In spite of the obvious economic benefits of dumping poisons into their air and water-they keep reproducing and demanding lower and lower wages and standards of living. My customers keep demanding that I raise my prices and I’m out of excuses as to why I can’t-in spite of a number of my Chinese employees who want lower wages. Thankfully, the government continues to find more problems to solve, with the otherwise wasted money found in between our seats. If you think I’m jumping all over the place and not making any sense-read some legislation about water quality. Just make sure you have a lot of booze or drugs handy to stop the room from spinning. The epidemic of fish floating on their backs (with perfect teeth) in Americas’ rivers, as well as the high mortality rate of folks who consume tap water, will convince you of the need of updating our Cro-Magnon water quality standards. Obviously, we should not let tap water go into a street drain and people do so should pay the consequences.
So I’m really glad that people study this stuff and make sure that the rest of us are protected by sensible regulation. I just wish they would use their energy and brilliance to come up with economically viable solutions. Some suggestions. Some understanding of the economic impact on the poor guy who owns the pipe.
“What about allowing it to pour across a lawn?” I asked. I explained the study being done by the other county and the results they were getting. The compliance guy paused for a moment. “That would probably work” he said.
I stopped digging for money in the seat cushions and filling out the change order to charge the customer more money.
I still don’t know if it’s safe to drink the water.
Photo credit: Joe Dyer