Mary Anna Evans: The Sewage Crisis in America

The Atlantic:

The EPA has called overflows from combined sewer systems “the largest category of our Nation’s wastewater infrastructure that still need to be addressed,” affecting Americans in 32 states, including the District of Columbia. The agency has been working with municipal water systems to address the problem for decades and much progress has been made, but to understand why it’s taking so long, you have to consider history. You also have to consider the massive costs that come with making changes to public works that have served millions of people for more than a century.

Combined sewers collect human waste, industrial waste, and stormwater runoff into a single pipe for treatment and disposal. (In other municipalities, these waste streams are handled separately.) In dry weather, a combined sewer ordinarily carries a relatively low volume of waste, delivering it to publicly owned treatment works, or POTWs for short, that are designed to handle that flow. In plain terms, when a combined sewer system is functioning properly, you can generally trust that when you flush, the contents of the toilet bowl end up where they’re supposed to go.

Forget building more roads -- we should fix our human waste water infrastructure. Go down to the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis after a big storm and smell the human waste running into the river and then tell me that is acceptable.