Sewage  

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"The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom, would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer. Even then the stench would remain." --Derek Hill, "Cheap Thrills," Tribune (London: April 29, 1960), 11.


"The sewer is the conscience of the city. Everything there converges and confronts everything else. In that livid spot there are shades, but there are no longer any secrets. Each thing bears its true form, or at least, its definitive form. The mass of filth has this in its favor, that it is not a liar. Ingenuousness has taken refuge there. The mask of Basil is to be found there, but one beholds its cardboard and its strings and the inside as well as the outside, and it is accentuated by honest mud."--Les Misérables (1862) by Victor Hugo

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sewage, or domestic/municipal wastewater, is a type of wastewater that is produced by a community of people. It is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical and toxic constituents, and its bacteriologic status (which organisms it contains and in what quantities). It consists mostly of greywater (from sinks, bathtubs, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers), blackwater (the water used to flush toilets, combined with the human waste that it flushes away); soaps and detergents; and toilet paper (less so in regions where bidets are widely used instead of paper).

Sewage usually travels from a building's plumbing either into a sewer, which will carry it elsewhere, or into an onsite sewage facility (of which there are many kinds). Whether it is combined with surface runoff in the sewer depends on the sewer design (sanitary sewer or combined sewer). The reality is that most wastewater produced globally remains untreated, causing widespread water pollution, especially in low-income countries: a global estimate by UNDP and UN-Habitat is that 90% of all wastewater generated is released into the environment untreated. In many developing countries the bulk of domestic and industrial wastewater is discharged without any treatment or after primary treatment only.

The term sewage is nowadays regarded as an older term and is being more and more replaced by "wastewater". In general American English usage, the terms "sewage" and "sewerage" mean the same thing. In common English usage, and in American technical and professional English usage, "sewerage" refers to the infrastructure that conveys sewage.

Sewers in fiction

The theme of traveling through, hiding, or even residing in sewers is a common cliché in media, where unsanitary conditions or the strong smell of sewage are seldom mentioned. A famous example of sewer dwelling is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sewer alligators

A well-known urban legend, the sewer alligator, is that of giant alligators or crocodiles residing in sewers, especially of major metropolitan areas. The Thomas Pynchon novel, 'V.', features extended passages in which one of the protagonists, Benny Profane, works with a fictional New York City task force to track alligators in the city sewers. His goal is to bag the great albino alligator, reputed to inhabit the system. This literary conceit grows from the persistent urban legend that baby pet alligators, flushed down toilets by tourists returning from Florida, continue to live and flourish in the pipes below.

Two public sculptures in New York depict an alligator dragging a hapless victim into a manhole.[1]

Alligators have been known to get into combined storm sewers in the Southeastern United States. Closed-circuit television by a sewer repair company captured an alligator in a combined storm sewer on tape.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sewage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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