Friday, April 18, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: Vital need

By
From page A4 | January 30, 2013 | Leave Comment

A few weeks ago I lost the use of my toilet and learned firsthand just how much I missed it when it wasn’t there.

My plumbing went out of order when the pipe between my house and the city’s sewer line in the street collapsed. Pipes like that belong to the homeowner, so it was my responsibility to get it fixed. It took about a week for the workmen to come and replace it. During that week I had to go the local fast food place to use the facilities. It got old fast.

More than 2 billion people around the world today don’t have a toilet or even an outhouse. They must relieve themselves beside the road or behind a bush. I’ve been reading about sanitation — and the lack of it — in a book called The Big Necessity by Rose George.

Toilets and the modern treatment of human waste make a difference not just to our comfort, but to basic human health. Our bodily waste can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites. If the waste comes into contact with water that’s later used for drinking, people can become violently ill.

The Chinese work very hard to address their waste problem. With over a billion people, they have a monumental task in disposing of all that waste on a daily basis. In the countryside one approach they sometimes use is a device called an anaerobic digester. It’s a vessel in which natural processes that break down waste without much oxygen present can proceed. Human waste is one material added to the digesters, but things like pig excrement can also be inputs. As they break down they form gas and solids that are less hazardous to human health.

One of the products of digesters is methane, called “biogas” in this context. It’s the same chemical that’s the main ingredient in the “natural gas” we burn in our furnaces. Biogas in some parts of rural China is used as fuel for cook stoves. Compared to burning wood to cook, it’s convenient and of course it conserves trees.

Digesters can break down things other than sewage. The same basic biological processes can help break down agricultural waste. But the sewage-to-fuel process surprises people the most, an example of making something valuable out of hazardous materials.

On more than one occasion I’ve taken students to tour my local sewage treatment plant. (I think they should know what happens to their waste as part of being generally informed citizens and residents of the planet.) The anaerobic digesters at the plant produce methane. At least sometimes, that methane has been burned to provide heat to breakdown more waste. And sometimes it’s burned off in a flame atop the digester.

Most Americans don’t know much about where their waste goes or how it’s treated and released into the general environment. Here’s hoping we can get over our embarrassment about our bodily waste and educate ourselves at least about the basics of wastewater treatment.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. Her most recent book is The Whole Story of Climate, just published by Prometheus Books. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

E. Kirsten Peters

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

.

News

Woman, dog back from Oso

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1, 8 Comments | Gallery

 
Goodbye LUPPU, hello LRPU

By Chris Daley | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

 
Past due state taxes bring arrest

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1, 8 Comments

 
Sanford trial: Prosecution, defense rest

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
DA candidate to remain on ballot

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A9

Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Benji and the Bickersons

By Matthew Margolis | From Page: A10

 
CPCSD seat unfilled

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

Lew Uhler backs Ranalli

By News Release | From Page: A14, 6 Comments

 
.

Letters

Evacuation

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7, 6 Comments

 
District 4 candidate

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7, 15 Comments

Open meetings

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7, 6 Comments

 
Volunteers and homeless camps

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7, 30 Comments

Bicycle events and traffic control

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A7, 5 Comments

 
.

Sports

Jennings wins national title

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Savannah Stephens can swing the bat

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A11 | Gallery

King of the West roars into Placerville

By Gary Thomas | From Page: A11

 
First and goal: Bunt etiquette

By Mike Bush | From Page: A11

Oak Ridge suffers tough 2-1 setback

By Mike Bush | From Page: A11

 
Roundup: April 17, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Prospecting

Plantastic sale this Saturday

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Spring art brightens government center

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Things to do: April 18, 2014

By Democrat Calendar | From Page: B2

 
Time out: A grand time at Grand China

By Earle Camembert | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Temple Kol Shalom hosts Passover Seder

By News Release | From Page: B3

 
Student art featured for Third Saturday

By News Release | From Page: B3

Promenade in high style

By Historic Old Sacramento | From Page: B4

 
Sac State Presents ‘Gypsy’

By California State Unversity, Sacramento | From Page: B4

Friday nights are engaging at the de Young

By Fine Arts | From Page: B5

 
See what is inside the vault

By Center For Sacramento History | From Page: B6

Eggstravaganza

By Fairytale Town | From Page: B6

 
Hats On For the Kids raises money for children

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B6

Gallery tips a hat to Dr. Seuss

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B7

 
Museum presents ‘Diesel Days’

By California State Railroad Museum | From Page: B7

Engagement: Adam Frega and Wednesday Bienusa

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B8

 
Duty: Air Force Airman Brian Polk

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B8

Cal Stage presents a season of challenging productions

By California Stage | From Page: B8

 
Duty: Army Pfc. Kyle W. Beasy

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B8

KVIE calls for artists

By Kvie | From Page: B9

 
A Couple of Blaguards tell tales

By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B9

America’s ClayFest II celebrates a rich history

By Blue Line Arts | From Page: B14

 
Fine Arts Museums feature two shows

By Fine Arts | From Page: B15

See wildflowers on train ride

By Railtown | From Page: B15

 
Easter at Northstar is family friendly

By Northstar California | From Page: B15

.

Essentials

Crime Log: March 28-30

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

Frank “Bud” Kraus Jr.

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Roy Cluness Chaix

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Frederick Wilbur Heymann

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Arthur W. Cornell

By Contributor | From Page: A2

.

Real Estate

Faster sales with spring staging

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

 
Coldwell Banker outsells the competition

Press Release | From Page: HS7

Handsome Redmond suits modern families

Press Release | From Page: HS11

 
Growing your own

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS14

 
Fraud workshop scheduled

Press Release | From Page: HS21

HCD launches assistance program

Press Release | From Page: HS22, 1 Comment

 
EZ Mortgages Inc. opens Placerville office

By News Release | From Page: HS22, 2 Comments

.

Comics

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A13

 
Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A13

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A13

 
Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A13

Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A13

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A13

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A13

 
Horoscope, Saturday, April 19, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A14

Horoscope, Friday, April 18, 2104

By Contributor | From Page: A14

 
New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A14

Horoscope, Sunday, April 20, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A14

 
.

Home Source

Faster sales with spring staging

By Ken Calhoon | From Page: HS4

Coldwell Banker outsells the competition

Press Release | From Page: HS7

Handsome Redmond suits modern families

Press Release | From Page: HS11

Growing your own

By Marni Jameson | From Page: HS14

Fraud workshop scheduled

Press Release | From Page: HS21

HCD launches assistance program

Press Release | From Page: HS22, 1 Comment

EZ Mortgages Inc. opens Placerville office

By News Release | From Page: HS22, 2 Comments