If you’re an environmentalist, particularly a San Francisco version of that creature (one of the most virulent of the breed), it must have come as quite a shock for you to learn that your muck stinks just as bad as a Rush Limbaugh fan’s output. The stench from the sewers in that earth-loving city has become overwhelming, “especially during the dry summer months.”
Why? The low-flow toilets insisted upon (by force of law) by enlightened legislators are not saving the San Francisco environment as the science said they would. According to SF Gate, the near water-free commodes have forced city engineers to mix in 27 million pounds of “highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite” with the sewage “before it’s dumped into the bay.”
Again, why? The ineludible Doctrine of Unintended Consequences.
Now, it wasn’t that long ago that folks like writer Alexandra Marks thought that she could “become a better human being” by teaching us to “flush with clean consciences.” Low-flow toilets, as the science said and as the chant went, would save the environment (from what or for whom is never told).
The motive was pure, but the problem was that most low-flow toilets were crappy. Marks quoted Dave Berry:
They work fine for one type of bodily function, which, in the interest of decency, I will refer to here only by the euphemistic term ‘No. 1.’ But many of the new toilets do a very poor job of handling “acts of Congress,” if you get my drift.
Many low-flow toilets had to be flushed at least twice for acts of Congress, thus using as much water as the old-style toilets they replaced. But if governments are good at anything, it is moving muck, and they had soon passed enough laws and granted enough grants that new breeds of low-flow toilets performed their functions admirably.
Indeed, it was learned that it would even be possible, by purely mechanical means, of removing acts of Congress from toilets and shoving them into the sewage system using almost no water whatsoever! What a boon for the environment!
Alas, this dream merely proved that activists could only see as far as the bottom of their bowls. The Doctrine of Unintended Consequences struck with force when it was discovered that the water which relocated the acts of Congress from toilets was also necessary to shift the Congressional output through the sewer system! Who knew!
Instead of a laminar movement of muck found with the old toilets, low-flow toilets caused stagnation. The acts of Congress left the homes of the benevolent, but when they plopped dry into the sewer, there they sat, festering and bubbling and turning into a giant petri dish. And they stank.
And still stink, hence the plan for dumpling concentrated bleach into the sewers to make up for the lost water. Some of the bleach must also be used to kill critters in the drinking water, too.
In what must be a fascinating sociological experiment, the very forces of benevolence which created the demand for low-flow toilets is now pressuring politicians to eschew chemicals. “Don’t Bleach Our Bay!” is the new environmentalist cry. Activists are claiming that the bleach will cause an “environmental disaster” and is thus not “planet-friendly.” They suggest—I kid you not—using Oxyclean, or it’s sewer equivalent, to scrub clean their effluvia.
This being a world in which politicians are driven by fear more than by conviction, those who throw the biggest tantrums usually get their way. Consequences don’t matter: what really does is how much you care. And who cares as much as an activist? Thus how long until San Francisco visitors are advised not to drink the water?