Recently the city of Thunder Bay Ontario experienced devastating flooding. There was enough water to flood out the waste water treatment plant. This effectively shut down the sewage collection and treatment system for the entire city. This turned the entire city to a zone without sanitation. Over 1000 houses needed to be evacuated, and some people needed to evacuate immediately.
The flood hit the city at night, and people living in basement apartments woke up to furniture floating in sewage. One lucky family woke up to their baby’s crib (and baby) floating in sewage. The rest discovered that their house smelled horrible when they woke up.
What overloaded the system was a prolonged rainstorm above the 100 year storm levels and the normal waste water levels. Combined sewers meant that all this water was supposed to be treated at the waste water treatment plant. When the flooding reached the facility, the pumps shorted out, as in most large facilities most of the control electronics (there are a lot) are stored in the basement. Electronics underwater rarely fair well, this shut down the entire facility. Large volumes of contaminated water had nowhere else to go and it started covering most of the city. People had anywhere from 4 inches to 6 feet of sewage in their homes.
The city instructed residents not to use water, because all the flushed toilet water was ending up in basements and free flowing in the street. People didn’t stop washing and flushing. Now, when there is sewage everywhere there is a huge need to wash and keep clean. But when all you have is water for hygiene, all that waste will end up in the street or in your basement. So there are strong reasons to use water, and strong reasons not to flush anything down the drain. This is a good reason to have water-less cleaners available for when the waste has nowhere to go. Alternatively it is also a good reason to have short term storage for household waste. There is no point in flushing the toilet if it just ends up in your basement. I would personally deal with twenty feces filled buckets then one flooded basement.
When there is sewage in your house the environment becomes so toxic that even sleeping overnight can cause respiratory illnesses. Continue reading