Low Flow Toilets Causing A Stink

by CalWatchdog Staff | February 21, 2011 8:48 am

Katy Grimes: Not all of the green regulations in California are working as intended. Low flow toilets are causing a big stink in California cities because not enough water is making it into the system to dilute the waste in the sewer systems.

There was a good reason that older toilets flushed using so much water.

“San Francisco’s efforts to conserve water have had one adverse effect on the city – a powerful stench. To combat the smell, the city plans to purchase 27 million pounds of bleach. City officials said it’s an old fashioned solution for a smelly problem,” KTUV reported this week.

The fix will cost San Francisco $14 million for three years of Clorox to diffuse the stink. Brought to you by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,  the 27 million pounds of bleach [1]will be released from tanks into the city’s massive sewage system.

According to several news stories, the increased use of low flow toilets means there’s less water in the sewers to dilute the smell of waste. Ask anyone in any California city where low flow toilets are mandatory – the smell in nearby sewers is strong.

I live in a downtown Sacramento neighborhood in which smells emit from the sewer system in several locations. It’s not pretty. And every time one of our city council members talks about wanting Sacramento to be the greenest city in the country, I suggest that we should offer to be the brownest.

For a laugh, google  “San francisco sewage smell” and read the stories and online conversations. People speculating about the prominent smell in the air report that they thought there was a sewage spill in the bay, or stepped in doggie doo, but the best comment, “From the Financial District to the Inner Sunset, it smells like a freshly-fertilized field from my Wisconsin youth.”

California adopted restrictive green commercial building standards called “CalGreen[2]” in 2010.  The legislation requires all newly constructed buildings to install green plumbing to reduce indoor water usage  by 20 percent, but residential areas have been requiring low flow toilets for many years. Current Federal law requires that residential toilets manufactured after Jan. 1, 1994, must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, and low flow urinals have been required in all new construction in California since January 1, 1992.

“The 2010 [3]California Green Building Standards Code[4] was developed through the outstanding collaborative efforts of the Department of Housing and Community Development, the Division of State Architect, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the California Energy Commission, and the Building Standards Commission,” reads the acknowledgment. What’s most interesting is that the organizations involved in developing the code all have a financial stake in the process, but absent from the table were builders.

Residential building code has been changed to reduce water consumption by 20 percent as well. Plumbing fixtures and toilets must meet these requirements, and water meters are coming to all homes and businesses.

In another restrictive business measure, commercial buildings are required to have separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use. And large landscapes are be required to have moisture-sensing irrigation systems that sense rain. What happened to timers and manual on/off buttons?

While most provisions in the code took effect Jan. 1, 2010, the water conservation provision did not become law later in the year “to give manufacturers enough time to have an adequate supply of low-flow toilets and water-conserving faucets.” How sensitive.

The San Francisco county board of supervisors are scheduled to make a decision on the $14 million bleach purchase on March 1.

FEB. 21, 2011

  1. 27 million pounds of bleach : http://www.ktvu.com/news/26922574/detail.html
  2. CalGreen: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/bsc/CALGreen/2010_CA_Green_Bldg.pdf
  3. 2010 : http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/bsc/CALGreen/2010_CA_Green_Bldg.pdf
  4. California Green Building Standards Code: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/bsc/CALGreen/2010_CA_Green_Bldg.pdf

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2011/02/21/low-flow-toilets-causing-a-stink/