The latrina (public toilet), in the ancient city of Ephesus.

8 Facts You Might Not Know About Sewers

It’s likely that if you haven’t had any sewer issues, you probably have spent little to no time thinking about sewer systems. It’s just pipes under the ground that mysteriously drain things away from your home. No big deal, right? However, modern day sewer and sanitation is arguably one of the most important inventions of mankind. It’s saved us from diseases that would have killed much of civilization. Let’s give this incredible invention it’s due.

  1. THEY ARE OLD….LIKE REALLY OLD – The Indus Valley, which is part of modern day Northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan had the basics of a sewage system around 2500 B.C.. This was thousands of years before the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians got in on the sewer game.
  2. THE BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY MENTIONS THE IMPORTANCE OF SANITATION Deuteronomic Code (Deut. 23:13) followed: “and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excrement.” This is thought by many to be the first recorded instruction to mankind regarding sanitation/hygiene.
  3. DISEASE Typhus, cholera, and dysentery are all diseases that are born out of poor sanitation. These diseases have been responsible for the deaths of billions of people across the globe.
  4. THE GREAT STINK – By the mid 1800’s, the Thames River had been a sewage dumping ground for centuries. Things came to a head in the sweltering summer of 1858 when the hideous stench of human excrement enveloped the city. As British lawmakers abandoned Parliament for fresh air upstream, they demanded that something be done to fix the “sewage problem.” Within 18 days, a bill was drafted to put in place one of the most impressive modern sewage systems in the world at that time.
  5. THE INFAMOUS THOMAS CRAPPER – Although the first modern flush toilet was invented in 1586 in England, it was considered “ridiculous” and not considered necessary. In the 1880’s a plumber, Thomas Crapper, updated the system which became popular. The flushing toilet, a.k.a. “The Crapper,”  was born.
  6. TOILET PAPER, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS Before the invention of modern day toilet paper, the human race used some pretty interesting things to do the job. Ancient Romans used a sponge on a stick that sat in saltwater. Let me be more clear… Everyone used the SAME SPONGE. Of course, leaves, rocks, and corn cobs were popular. Wealthy people used wool or lace. Americans were fond of using the Farmers Almanac pages. Thankfully, commercially mass produced toilet paper in the relatively inexpensive rolls we use today were made available in 1871.
  7. BEWARE OF FATBERGS – Fatbergs have become an increasing problem in modern sewer systems around the globe. Like the name indicates, fatbergs are huge formations of congealed fat and non-flushable items, such as wipes, that clog pipes. Never put grease down your kitchen drain and wipes… even the “flushable” type are not recommended.
  8. THERE IS STILL MORE WORK TO DO WITH SEWERS AND SANITATION – The World Health Organization states 4.5 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation and 2.3 billion still do not have basic sanitation services.


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