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. Jorge

    I'm sure the same gag of overpromoted, subeducated city hacks will ponder enacting a crap tax if all else fails. Some people should be paid not to think, you can't make this stuff up.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SF Smells

    So the smell finally has caught up to a city that has a repugnant intellect.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kay

    I see a few people commenting on the toilets with two flush modes available in other parts of our world. They are available here in the US. I bought one for my home last year from Homey Depot. Works great.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ken

    And here you see Democratic run government in action. Do the politically correct thing and require the use of low-flow toilets, don't even consider how the sewer system was designed. What, the sewer system was designed with angles and pipes intended for higher water flows??? And so with less water, sludge builds up causing a bad smell? Well lets cover the smell with bleach! Problem solved. Oh wait, all that does is kill the bacteria eating the sludge causing an odor. So the sludge will now build up faster and in 5-10 years we can get some nasty sewer back up and cloggage? Well, why worry about the future, lets do what we want now.

    Nothing but idiots running that city.

    March 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • rahul

      i dont think the idea behind low – flow was polical correctness as much as it was resource management. poor resource management, but confusing politics with an actual problem is dangerous.

      March 1, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steve

    That is what you get, you tree hugging fools

    March 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. problem solved

    Just start a campaign to try to urge everyone to flush three times.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jason

    WAIT A MINUTE HERE, something isn't adding up. You mean to tell me that all of the showers and hand washing and dish washing and laundry and cooking, and other toilet flushing isn't enough to wash a little urine out of the pipes? I call complete BS on this one.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Well, maybe all *you* ever excrete is a little urine, but some of us actually eat solid food – and it comes out the other end.

      March 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jt

    How about they flush twice.....It's long way to the ocean!

    March 1, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tcat

    Made the stink worse you mean. I was there for a few weeks and my first day there I watched some homeless men eating out of a dumpster. That place looks a lot better from the air than it does on the sidewalk.

    March 1, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sixgun

    Libtards cant do anything right. I will give up my 4 GAL toilet when you pry it out from under me. And I wont give up my guns or magazines that hold way more than 10 rounds either. God damn socialist can go to hell

    March 2, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Just saying.....

    this is what happens when politicians try to solve engineering problems. The politicians think they are just soooo right, the dumb f's.

    March 2, 2011 at 4:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joe

    Go GREEN with your toilet and at no extra charge you get the POOP sting..GO GRREEENNN!!

    March 2, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joe

    1.6 GPF x 3 if you take a large poop. I want the good old days when you could flush yourself down if you didn't stand first. REAL POWER and this stupid green movement is killing us.

    March 2, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. Paul Z

    Isn't that a tram from Milan, Italy? Where exactly was it raining?

    March 2, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. RobertNeilTerry

    What about desalination of the sea water before pumping it into holding pits. True, it requires pumping stations, desalination plants, and lines laid. But, in the long run may be the optimum answer.

    March 2, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
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