Archive for Professor Toilet Tells All
The places that wastewater goes after we flush the toilet is not something that we often think about. So the Professor was pleased when his colleague Jim McHale, vice president of engineering at American Standard and all-around brilliant toilet scientist, shared what he learned from a trip to the Philadelphia Southeast Waste Water Treatment Plant to track down the journey from toilet flush to sewer and beyond.
Taking such an overwhelmingly odorific journey may not sound like the most appealing idea, but McHale had an interesting goal.
“My main motivation for organizing the tour was to get some insight on the question of whether or not our system of water-based toilets and sewers is really sustainable. That is, can humans continue doing this for the next thousand years without significant impact to the environment? I did not expect an answer in one visit, but thought it was a good way to start learning.”
The process begins when sewage first enters the plant, and solids like grit, sludge, grease, and scum are all gradually removed through a multi-step process of filtration and sedimentation. As McHale explained to the Professor, one of the most striking aspects of the plant was how “natural” the process is. Essentially, all the plant does is control the flow of the sewage to allow sufficient time for natural processes like sedimentation and biological metabolism to take place in a reliable manner.
The plant provides a controlled residence time and provides oxygen to help the microbes do their work removing contaminants from the waste water, but it is all essentially a natural process. The bacteria that do the work were not even specially selected: they utilize the native bacteria that flowed in with the sewage. All the plant needs to do is control their population and keep them fed. At the end of the line, the water is then treated with chlorine before it is released into the Delaware River to protect the river water for wildlife and for swimmers.
The plant McHale visited handles an unbelievable 120 million gallons of wastewater flow in a typical day. It is one of the three facilities serving Philadelphia and its suburbs, and serves the most populated part of the city. Therefore the Professor was not surprised to learn that the system can be unreliable. Philadelphia, like most of the older cities, has a combined sewer system, which means that household sewage, runoff from rainstorms, and industrial wastewater are all combined and handled by one sewer system.
The average rain storm sends enough water into the sewer system that it can overflow, releasing untreated sewage into the local waterways. McHale reported that it had rained about an inch on the day of his visit, and that the affects on the plant were evident. The water leaving the plant wasn’t as clean as it should be: flow rates were too high and residence times inside the plant too short.
One interesting potential solution to this problem is that individual households could help by releasing cleaner water into the system. Household plumbing systems could pre-treat wastewater, for example. Toilets could be designed to ease the burden on water treatment plants by separating liquids, which require less treatment, from solids that require more time in the plant. Incorporating anaerobic digestion on a household or community level is another interesting possibility. Anaerobic digestion produces methane gas, which could then be used to produce electricity or household heating while also relieving the burden on local sewage treatment plants.
Dealing with such immense quantities of wastewater is a complicated problem to tackle, but the Professor is heartened to see such great minds working on solutions.
Professor Toilet tries to avoid controversy, but this must be said. There are two Americas.
The 60 to 75 percent who say that toilet paper should be over.
And the 25 to 40 percent who believe, who truly believe, that toilet paper should be under, a.k.a. The Underclass.
Tearing at the very two-ply of our nation, the toilet paper under vs. over debate even has its own Wikipedia entry, “Toilet paper orientation,” which fills more than 23 typed pages with more than 9,000 words, 129 notes and 119 references.
Toilet Paper Under Over: An Historical Perspective
There was a time in our history when people weren’t torn asunder by over/under. Toilet paper didn’t exist. So that was easy.
The first mention of toilet paper on broadcast television is said to be about the toilet paper under over issue. It’s credited to All in the Family’s Archie Bunker yelling at Meathead for…can you guess? Under, of course.
Another member of the underclass was Ann Landers, who came out and declared her toilet paper orientation to be under. She later said it generated more letters than anything else in the 31 years of her column.
American Standard put the squeeze to the issue twice: first in 1993, with an advertisement and survey conducted at that year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. “Over” won. Our 2008 Bathroom Habits survey reaffirmed the overwhelming preference for “over” with 75 percent of respondents clearly standing up to the Underclass.
Soothing a Nation’s Rift with Quilted Softness
But being America, the Professor is proud to say that for every polarizing issue, there’s always something we can find that unites us. In the case of toilet paper, we can all agree on incredible resentment for the jerks who leave an empty roll.
Smart commercial restroom innovations are, in the Professor’s experience, few and far between. The status quo is so readily accepted that many manufacturers of plumbing fixtures have little incentive to invest in attractive designs and technological innovations. That’s why the Professor is so impressed by the latest commercial offerings from American Standard. From smart, water-saving technology to sleek, unexpected shapes, here are a few of the commercial toilets, sinks, and urinals that are transforming modern restrooms.
- If you’ll pardon the pun, the Professor’s hands-down favorite innovation is American Standard’s hands-free dual flush toilet valve. The way it works is that the Selectronic dual flush toilet valve releases a light flush of 1.1 gallons when motion is detected for less than 60 seconds. A standard 1.6 gpf volume is used when motion is detected for 60 seconds or longer.
The Lucia wall-hung lavatory sink is a great solution
for commercial spaces in need of extra storage areas for soaps, toiletries, and accessories but have little space to spare in the restroom. The sink has a graceful, upscale appearance and offers a surprising amount of usable storage surface for such a small fixture.
- The strikingly modern Decorum high-efficiency urinalwould not be out of place in spaces like an art museum or a luxury resort. Decorum only uses 0.5 gallons of water per flush (gpf) and also features the EverClean permanent finish that inhibits the growth of stain and odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew on the surface – making it ideal for commercial, institutional and other high-use, public installations.
- The surprisingly smart Ceratronic proximity faucet that allows users to control water temperature in addition to the on/off function, all without touching the faucet. Ideal for hospitals and other settings where spreading germs is a concern, the faucet’s detection range and time variables can be customized with the touch of a button from an optional remote control.
What’s most exciting to the Professor about all these creative, problem-solving products is the knowledge that even more transformative innovations are still to come. Here’s to a future of cleaner, smarter, more beautiful restrooms for us all.
Note: This post is part of the 2011 Bathroom Blogfest, now in its sixth year. The Professor is thrilled to participate in the blogfest for a third year this year. For more information about the blogfest, visit Bathroom Blogfest. Look for the tag “#BathroomEXP” on flickr, del.icio.us, Technorati, Twitter and Google, or ‘Like’ on Facebook. A list of participants is below.
|Name||Blog Name||Blog URL|
|Susan Abbott||Customer Experience Crossroads||http://www.customercrossroads.com/customercrossroads/|
|Paul Anater||Kitchen and Residential Design||http://www.kitchenandresidentialdesign.com|
|Shannon Bilby||From the Floors Up||http://fromthefloorsup.com/|
|Toby Bloomberg||Diva Marketing||http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/|
|Laurence Borel||Blog Till You Drop||http://www.laurenceborel.com/
|Bill Buyok||Avente Tile Talk||http://tiletalk.blogspot.com|
|Jeanne Byington||The Importance of Earnest Service||http://blog.jmbyington.com/
|Becky Carroll||Customers Rock!||http://customersrock.net|
|Katie Clark||Practical Katie||http://practicalkatie.blogspot.com/|
|Nora DePalma||O’Reilly DePalma: The Blog||http://www.oreilly-depalma.com/blog/|
|Paul Friederichsen||The BrandBiz Blog||http://brandbizblog.com/|
|Tish Grier||The Constant Observer||http://spap-oop.blogspot.com/|
|Elizabeth Hise||Flooring The Consumer||http://flooringtheconsumer.blogspot.com|
|Emily Hooper||Floor Covering News Blog||http://www.fcnews.net/category/blog/|
|Diane Kazan||Urban Design Renovation||http//blog.urbandesignrenovation.com|
|Joseph Michelli||Dr. Joseph Michelli’s Blog||http://www.josephmichelli.com/blog|
|Veronika Miller||Modenus Blog||http://www.modenus.com/blog|
|Arpi Nalbandian||Tile Magazine Editors’ Blog||http://www.tilemagonline.com/Articles/Blog_Nalbandian|
|David Polinchock||Polinchock’s Ponderings||http://blog.polinchock.com/|
|Professor Toilet||American Standard’s Professor
|David Reich||my 2 cents||http://reichcomm.typepad.com|
|Victoria Redshaw & Shelley Pond||Scarlet Opus Trends Blog||http://www.trendsblog.co.uk|
|Sandy Renshaw||Purple Wren||http://www.PurpleWren.com|
|Bethany Richmond||Carpet and Rug Institute Blog||http://www.carpet-and-rug-institute-blog.com/|
|Bruce D. Sanders||RIMtailing||http://www.rimtailing.blogspot.com|
|Paige Smith||Neuse Tile Service blog||http://neusetile.wordpress.com|
|Christine B. Whittemore||Content Talks Business
|Christine B. Whittemore||Smoke Rise & Kinnelon
|Christine B. Whittemore||Simple Marketing Blog||http://www.simplemarketingblog.com/|
|Ted Whittemore||Working Computers||http://www.kinneloncomputers.com/|
|Chris Woelfel||Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile
|Patty Woodland||Broken Teepee||http://www.brokenteepee.com|
|Denise Lee Yohn||brand as business bites||http://deniseleeyohn.com/best-bites|
Professor Toilet has become aware of a toilet now on the market with a remarkable “new” invention—it has overflow holes in the bowl so that the bowl won’t overflow if the toilet clogs.
This is a great innovation, except it is years too late. Years ago when toilets used 3.5 gallons or more of water per flush, if there was a clog the bowl would overflow and make a mess. We old folks like the Professor remember many horror stories about this.
Now that toilets use only 1.6 gallons and even less of water per flush, there is not enough water in a single flush to overflow the bowl. One would have to flush twice or even three times in order to overflow the bowl. If your bowl is clogged you are not going to flush the toilet again if you see the bowl filled up with water and not going down. This is common sense.
Furthermore, with all the advances in toilet flushing technologies, new toilets featuring oversized trapways are engineered to eliminate clogging. In fact, toilets such as the American Standard Champion®4 toilet, with the industry’s largest siphonic trapway at 2-3/8”, is engineered not to clog and will remove a 67% larger mass than a toilet with a standard 2” trapway.
So with new toilets that feature trapways in excess of 2”, clogging is essentially a non-issue. And, even if the rare clog occurs, the bowl won’t overflow unless it is flushed repeatedly.
Now, a couple more thoughts about this “new” invention:
- The extra trap seal required for the overflow uses and wastes about 30 ml. of extra water on every flush. This is not going in the right direction for saving water.
- The extra seal for the overflow contains only about 30 ml. of water—it can evaporate quickly if the toilet is not used frequently enough. This will result in sewer gases leaking into the room and a rather nasty smell.
- Also, the invention only works on clogs in front of the trapway (the same kind you usually won’t get with a Champion4 or Cadet3). If the clog is in the drain pipe and not in the toilet, the bowl will still fill up with water. While the bowl won’t overflow because of today’s water usages, the new invention nonetheless isn’t failsafe for all kinds of clogs.
The Professor is continually on the lookout for new toilet innovations to determine their real merits and communicate the facts to his audience so that they can make educated decisions.
Earlier this month, the Professor was fortunate enough to spend a day at the American Standard Design Center in Piscataway, NJ with a select group of the movers and shakers of the design blogger world. It is a pleasure to share their insights, reflections, humor, and excellent photographs of the trip:
Paul Anater, who blogs at Kitchen and Bath Residential Design, was especially impressed with some of the company’s unique and functional designs and the fashionable digs the bloggers enjoyed in New York.
Meanwhile, the engineering department’s space age 3-D copier was a big hit with Laurie Burke of Kitchen Design Notes. (The Professor also appreciated the occasional plumbing pun she threw in for good measure, naturally.)
Andie Day (and her photographer’s eye) especially loved the great views and fashionable setting of the rooftop of the Standard Hotel, where the bloggers gathered the night before their Design Center tour.
Saxon and her business partner Rich Holschuh also wrote about the company’s fixture fixation, the “stylish verve” of the American Standard design team, and shared a video of a portion of the tour on the site for their social media consultancy, Adroyt.
Many thanks to everyone who attended! The Professor had a marvelous time getting to talk plumbing with everyone and truly appreciates everyone’s thoughtful commentary.