Low-flow toilets cause stink in San Francisco
Rain drenches San Francisco last month, but it's during summer when sewers emit a rotten-egg smell.
March 1st, 2011
07:21 AM ET

Low-flow toilets cause stink in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco's push for low-flow toilets is saving water - at a smelly price.

Use of the low-flow toilets has cut city water consumption by 20 million gallons a year, Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tyrone Jue told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the cost is both monetary and olfactory.

Because water flow isn't pushing the waste through the system fast enough, a stinky sludge is building up in the sewers, the Chronicle reports. It's blamed for a rotten-egg smell wafting through areas of the city, especially during summer, according to the report.

So the city is spending $14 million to buy a three-year supply of concentrated bleach to combat the sewer odor, disinfect treated water before it's pumped into San Francisco Bay and sanitize tap water.

The plan is drawing criticism from environmental advocates.

"Using sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, is the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack an egg; it's the wrong tool, and it will cause irreversible collateral damage," San Francisco chemical engineer Adam Lowry and German chemist Michael Braungart wrote in a Chronicle op-ed.

Their solution to the stink: either dumping hydrogen peroxide into the sewers or "a pro-biotic solution, that is, enzymes or bacteria that would simply 'eat' the smell then degrade harmlessly."

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Filed under: California • Environment • San Francisco
soundoff (287 Responses)
  1. BillyG

    "our publicly funded government agencies are the most logical people to deal with this issue"

    The same ones who gave us low-flow toilets?

    March 1, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. Marco

    All these American know it alls !!!!

    March 1, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rod C. Venger

    Maybe if San Francisco hadn't tried to fix something that wasn't broken to begin with, there wouldn't be a problem.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. B-RY

    Based on the stench coming from Wisconsin protesters I am guessing they have low flow toilets there also? Maybe after they get tired they can move to the motherland in SF and clean sewer pipes.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Mars Bonfire

      What's it like to never have an unexpressed thought, Billy Ray?

      March 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubbashrimp2

    One mo thing. Does anyone know what will happen when we start flushing down the system caustic chemicals, to the pipes and connectors and other parts of the system? Will the treatment plants have issues or will the workers be subject to injury. I think they should reverse hydralic pressure, and blow the folks right off their toilets when they are doing their business, that will give them the flush of success.

    March 1, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bubbashrimp2

    Try the browsers refresh button, maybe that will help.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. poopy face

    HEY.........whats that smell??U smell that??

    March 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michelle Wood

    MMmmmm bleach!

    March 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Micheal

    Go back to real toilet that flush. Water saver toilets do not save water because you have to flush them 2 to times. This was another stupid environmentalist idea to begin with.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob T

    New publicity slogan. The City by the toilet!

    March 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. poopy face

    Does anyone know what a "dirty sanchez" is????

    March 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob T

    "The Golden Waste Gate"?

    March 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Wow twisted

    Wonderful. Smelling that isht should really be a fate on TwoTwistedFats.com. Not sure what the accompanying image would be.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Wow twisted

    THAT NEEDS TO BE ENTERED ON TwoTwistedFats.com. WITH a really THOUGHTFUL image haha.

    March 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. TechNC

    Luke got it right on the nose. Chlorine in sewage creates a carcinogen for the folks down stream that pickup water you've dumped into whatever (the lake, river, ocean, etc)... so now we're increasing the cancer rates of those drinking water generated by the upstream sewer discharge... and then come the higher death rates and lawsuits (once they figure out what's happened)! Ah the lawyers get rich again. The only folks making money off this whole thing are the toilet manufacturer(s). You might want to check on the person that proposed this and how much they had invested in toilet manufacturing (check their brother-in-law too!)

    March 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Not to mention the corrosion that will be caused to a wastewater treatment system that has so much bleach running through it.

      March 1, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
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