Tag Archives: USA

Belgium: undertakers plan to dissolve dead and flush them into sewage system

Belgian undertakers have drawn up plans to dissolve the corpses of the dead in caustic solutions and flush them into the sewage system.

The controversial new method [called Resomation] is said to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than running highly polluting crematoria or using up valuable land for graves.

The departed would go into the sewage systems of towns and cities and then be recycled in water processing plants.

The proposals are being studied by the EU and if approved, it would mean the procedure could be used across Europe.

However, opponents of the plans say it smacks of a Frankenstein callousness towards the dead and one survey in Belgium found many people found the idea “disturbing.”

“The idea is for the deceased to be placed in a container with water and salts and then pressurised and after a little time, about two hours, mineral ash and liquid is left over,” said a spokesman for the Flemish Association of Undertakers.

The European Commission is investigation whether the resulting liquid could safely be flushed into the sewage system. Authorities in the northern Belgian region have yet to decide whether to approve the process.

Six states in America – Maine, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maryland have recently passed legislation that allow the process to be used.

Although experts insist that the ashes can be recycled in waste systems, the residue from the process can also be put in urns and handed over to relatives of the dead.

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Source: Allan Hall, Telegraph, 07 Jul 2010

USA, Austin, TX: toilet rebates not cost effective, city says in canceling program

The City of Austin is ending its toilet-rebate program as water utility officials shift limited dollars to other water conservation measures.

Low-flow toilets will still be available free of charge for residents and business owners willing to pick them up at a local city-contracted vendor. This program targets individuals, as opposed to contractors, who often sought rebates for many toilets at once.

City officials say water conservation is as big a priority as ever, but reimbursing homeowners and businesses for low-flow toilets purchased at retailers was not cost-effective compared with other water-conservation programs. The rebate program is an example of how incentives for buying eco-friendly products can lose their effectiveness as those products become widely available and prices drop.

High-efficiency toilets use about 63 percent less water than older models, according to the water utility. The city offered the rebates in an effort to conserve water. That in turn allowed the city to conserve resources and avoid steep price increases that would occur if Austin uses more water than allowed under a contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority, which provides most of the city’s water.

But the toilet rebate program is no longer the best method for conserving water, said Drema Gross, acting water conservation division manager for the Austin Water Utility. The rebate, which included installation costs until recently, cost the utility up to $200 per toilet, she said; by contrast, simply giving away the toilets costs the city about $71 (the per-toilet cost of a wholesale contract).

“When you look at the cost/benefit of the rebate program, it just doesn’t give us as much bang for the buck,” Gross said.

In a sense, the program is also a victim of its own success.

It began in the mid-1990s , but was targeted mainly to single-family homes. In 2009 , the city decided to shift emphasis to large buildings such as apartment complexes and hotels.

Private contractors also recognized a business opportunity, city officials said. Contractors began approaching apartment complexes and offering to handle the work of switching out old toilets en masse; in essence, a building owner could get dozens or even hundreds of new toilets installed with almost no effort, on the city’s tab.

Some members of the city’s Resource Management and Water and Wastewater commissions wondered whether the city needed to offer such a rich enticement to install a widely available appliance.

In November 2009 — barely a month into the city’s budget year — the rebate program had exhausted almost all of the $2.3 million the city had budgeted for water-conservation measures, including subsidies for rainwater collection barrels and low-flow washing machines. The City Council approved an additional $3 million , but the toilet rebate program promptly chewed through that as well.

Five months into the 2010 budget year, the city had almost doubled the number of toilet rebates it had accepted the year before; apartment-complex rebates increased nearly eightfold, to 7,697.

“The demand that we saw far exceeded what we expected,” Gross said.

Web site: City of Austin Free Toilet Program

Source: Marty Toohey, Statesman.com, 29 Jun 2010

The delicate toilet question – what are the best water-saving options?

Few people enjoy chatting casually about the bathroom, let alone about toilets. But since they’re responsible for as much as 40 percent of the water consumed inside most households, and water is becoming an increasingly precious resource, it’s time to talk toilets here at Sheep Dog Hollow. 

(For new readers, Sheep Dog is the 100-year-old farmhouse that we’re attempting to renovate in a green and economical manner. For our regular readers, please forgive the repetition.)   

Now I confess that I stole the “talk toilets” line from a Sierra Club website, which has a delightful post that starts right up front: “Let’s talk toilets…” (Writing for the highly respected, very proper Monitor, I figured I had to get to the point in a more refined, less direct manner.)   

Among other things, the post notes that “The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that water managers in 36 states expect water shortages in the next 10 years, even under normal, non-drought conditions.”   

Being a reporter, I simply had to go to the original GAO document [PDF] for a bit more info. It turns out that it was published in July 2003, more than six years ago. I needed to check it because in an earlier post, my research had turned up that in 2009 a whopping 45 states expect water shortages under normal conditions. From 36 to 45 is a pretty big increase in just a few years, but it also reinforces what the GAO found back in 2003:

State water managers expect freshwater shortages in the near future, and the consequences may be severe….. Drought conditions will exacerbate shortage impacts. When water shortages occur, economic impacts to sectors such as agriculture can be in the billions of dollars. Water shortages also harm the environment. For example, diminished flows reduced the Florida Everglades to half its original size. Finally, water shortages cause social discord when users compete for limited supplies.  

So now back to the toilet talk and what kind we’d like to put in at Sheep Dog. I’m afraid we’re not even going to consider a composting toilet. I’m just not that advanced yet in the world of green. We’re going for low-flow toilets instead. (Please, composting fans, tell me I’m wrong….)   

But it turns out that the world of low-flow toilets is much more complicated than first appears.   

Prior to 1994, most toilets in the United States used about 3.5 gallons of water for each flush. Then a new federal law kicked in that required all new toilets sold to use only 1.6 gallons a flush, according to the Sierra Club water-wise toilets website mentioned above:

“….in the toilet trade they’re actually called “ultra low flush toilets” or ULFTs. If you go toilet shopping and the salesperson tells you a ULFT is something special, don’t be fooled. It merely meets the minimum legal requirements for a john.”  

Those ultra low-flow toilets are just the lowliest of the green flushing toilet possibilities out there. Greener ones include high-efficiency toilets (HET) to those that qualify for the EPA’s WaterSense label. I’ll delve more into those in my next post. (I’m already 300 words over my limit.)  

In the meantime, it’s possible to check to see how much water your current toilet uses. Indeed, you could have one of the estimated “100 million toilets” in the US that still flushes using 3.5 gallons of water.  

Source – CS Monitor

Taking showers ‘can make you ill’

Showering may be bad for your health, say US scientists, who have shown that dirty shower heads can deliver a face full of harmful bacteria.

Tests revealed nearly a third of devices harbour significant levels of a bug that causes lung disease. Levels of Mycobacterium avium were 100 times higher than those found in typical household water supplies. M. avium forms a biofilm that clings to the inside of the shower head, reports the National Academy of Science.

In the Proceedings journal [1], the study authors say their findings might explain why there have been more cases of these lung infections in recent years, linked with people tending to take more showers and fewer baths. Water spurting from shower heads can distribute bacteria-filled droplets that suspend themselves in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs, say the scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

[…] While it is rarely a problem for most healthy people, those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women or those who are fighting off other diseases, can be susceptible to infection. They may develop lung infection with M. avium and experience symptoms including tiredness, a persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath and weakness, and generally feel unwell.

[…] Since plastic shower heads appear to “load up” with more bacteria-rich biofilms, metal shower heads may be a good alternative. Showers have also been identified as a route for spreading other infectious diseases, including a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease and chest infections with a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Hot tubs and spa pools carry a similar infection risk, according to the Health Protection Agency.

[1] Feazela, L.M. …[et al.] (2009). Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms. PNAS. Published online before print 14 Sep 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0908446106

Source: BBC, 14 Sep 2009

USA – Solid Waste Industry Managing Trash as a Resource

Technological Innovation Turns Garbage into Energy, While Reducing Emissions, Says Industry Leader in Speech to Washington Economists

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forget your old-fashioned ideas about the solid waste industry. It’s not just about hauling garbage anymore.

So said Bruce J. Parker, president and CEO of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), in a speech today to the Society of Government Economists in Washington. NSWMA represents the private sector solid waste industry in the United States.

“Most Americans probably don’t recognize today’s garbage industry for who we really are – one of the most environmentally responsive and innovative industries in the nation,” said Parker. “The nearly 400,000 American men and women who work in the public and private sectors of our industry – in positions as varied as haulers, mechanics, civil engineers and environmental scientists – have long moved beyond simply picking up trash.”

“Americans throw out more than 250 million tons of garbage each year. Our industry continues to protect public health and the environment by managing this waste,” Parker said. “But in recent years, we’ve pioneered technologies that have changed the ways we deal with our trash. We’ve invested tens of millions of dollars, not only to modernize landfills and boost recycling rates, but also to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and find renewable sources of energy that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Parker pointed to waste-based energy projects, which turn household garbage into clean, renewable energy. In addition to 87 waste-to-energy facilities operated by the industry – generating enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes – it also operates 470 landfill-gas-to-energy projects that provide electricity and heat for corporate and government users in 44 states. The U.S. EPA has identified an additional 520 landfills across the nation as potential candidates for similar energy projects.

“Landfill-gas-to-energy projects also address global warming by capturing methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” Parker noted. The EPA estimates that using methane as renewable, “green” energy brings environmental and energy benefits equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of 195 million barrels of oil a year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted that landfill-gas recovery directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Other industry initiatives include working with truck manufacturers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, investing in the development of alternative fuels such as biodiesel, compressed natural gas and ethanol, using renewable sources of energy such as solar to power compacting equipment, and placing solar panels and wind turbines on landfills to produce even more energy.

“Increasingly, the industry is relying on cleaner-burning fuels to power our fleet of 130,000 trucks,” Parker said. “We’re also looking toward hybrid technology to further reduce greenhouse emissions and improve air quality.”

Recycling and composting offer another important environmental success story, Parker said. The industry processed recycling for or composted slightly more than one third of all municipal solid wastes in 2007, conserving precious resources, protecting air and water from potential pollution and leading to a 2.5 percent reduction in America’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. EPA.

“The solid waste industry is proud of its environmental achievements, but there is much more to do. Our collective efforts have made a difference, and we continue to raise the bar,” Parker said.

NSWMA represents for-profit companies in North America that provide solid, hazardous and medical waste collection, recycling and disposal services, and companies that provide professional and consulting services to the waste services industry. For more information about how America’s solid waste management professionals are serving as environmental health and safety stewards, protecting our environment and serving our communities, please visit http://www.everydayenvironmentalists.org/environmentalists.

Source – Business Wire

Bush Sewage Plant plan flushed

The Republican brand may have stunk on Election Night, but not enough for San Francisco voters to rename a sewage treatment plant after President George W. Bush. [Voters rejected a proposition to change] the city’s Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. Apparently they did not think the prank on the unpopular president was worth the [estimated] $50,000 […] it would cost to not only change the name on the facilities, but also the lettering on materials and publications.

Source: Erika Slife, Chicago Tribune, 06 Nov 2008

USA: Leadership needed for sewer projects

(…) These lawmakers are looking at the staggering evidence that two out of every three West Virginia families still don’t have acceptable sewage facilities.  The reason?   Most people living in smaller communities have incomes of less than $20,000 and can’t afford basic sanitation service. (…)

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