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26 minutes | 5 months ago
Well, Well, Well
In the 1990s, lakes and wetlands dried up in Florida’s fast-growing Tampa Bay region. Some attributed the drastic change to drought; others to overpumping of an underground aquifer. A pitched legal battle, known as the Water Wars, played out. Some government-run utilities wanted to keep pumping from the aquifer; others wanted to look for new water sources. Eventually, they began to work together to find multiple sources of drinking water. Guests: Randy and Mark Barthle, Barthle Brothers Ranch owners Honey Rand, Water Wars author Eileen Hart, Tampa Bay resident and water rights activist Ken Herd, Tampa Bay Water, chief science and technical officer Radhika Fox, US Water Alliance, chief executive officer Photo: Courtesy of Tampa Bay Water
1 minutes | 6 months ago
In Deep Mini-Vacation
Our production team is taking a break during the week of Labor Day. In the meantime, we’d love to know what’s on your mind. As you listened to the first five episodes, did you have any questions? Something about sewers? Or wastewater treatment? Or lead pipes? Call 651-228-4840 and leave us a voice message. We might include your question on a future podcast. Photo: Courtesy of MIT Press
30 minutes | 6 months ago
Small Town, Big Struggles
Today we leave the big cities behind and ask: How does rural America manage its water infrastructure? After all, one in five U.S. households isn’t connected to a sewer system. We visit the rolling mountains of Letcher County, Kentucky. There, in the early 1900s, coal mining firms built company towns with little attention to long-term infrastructure. Decades later, local residents are dealing with the consequences. We hear from former coal miner Carroll Smith about his push in the 1990s to bring clean drinking water and safe wastewater disposal to communities across the county. And we learn where he ran into challenges. Guests: Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University Carroll Smith, former Judge Executive of Letcher County, Kentucky Allan Tuggle, retired miner Edna McBee, Millstone resident Mark Lewis, General Manager, Letcher County Water and Sewer District Photo: Britta Greene
33 minutes | 6 months ago
Clean water can get contaminated on its way to your faucet. In America, more than 9 million lead service lines connect city water to individual homes (and apartments), leaving millions of people vulnerable to potentially harmful doses of lead. Retired EPA scientist — and Flint whistleblower — Miguel Del Toral shows us lead pipes unearthed from his property in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood and explains why they're no longer considered safe. And we talk to a Milwaukee father, who stumbled upon this lesson with his young son. → Read APM Reports’ investigation → Read Del Toral’s memorandum on Flint Guests: Miguel Del Toral, EPA scientist (retired) Rick Rabin, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health Tory Lowe, Milwaukee activist (and father of four) Karen Baehler, scholar-in-residence at American University School of Public Affairs Photo: Lauren Rosenthal | APM Reports
24 minutes | 6 months ago
Older American cities have a dirty problem — outdated sewer systems that use a single pipe to carry both sewage and stormwater to treatment facilities. As population growth and climate change have increased both sewage and stormwater, those pipes can get filled to capacity, and the untreated water sometimes ends up in waterways, where it wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. Chicago’s strategy for stopping the overflows has been to build massive reservoirs and a 109-mile-long system of tunnels hundreds of feet below ground. It’s a gargantuan holding tank for filthy water. Unfortunately, it may not be big enough.
23 minutes | 6 months ago
Just how hard is it to keep wastewater out of our drinking water? Super hard. In this episode, we take a look at the lengths one great American city, Chicago, went to in order to keep the source of its drinking water clean. Reverse the flow of the river? Why not? Then we explore the origins of activated sludge — a century-old microbial goo that still cleans up our sewage today. We end with a scientist studying what a city’s wastewater can reveal about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
22 minutes | 7 months ago
Throughout human history, cities have grappled with how to keep excrement separate from drinking water. In the Middle Ages, gong farmers excavated human waste from city dwellers and took it to the countryside to be used as fertilizer. In the 19th century, cities grew so big, this wasn’t possible anymore. So excrement went into rivers like the Thames, which is where London, a city of 2 million people in 1850, got its drinking water. At the same time, cholera was killing tens of thousands of people. Nearly everyone thought cholera was transmitted through the air. But John Snow, a London physician, discovered dirty water was the cause.
3 minutes | 7 months ago
Coming Soon: In Deep
From history to policy to full-on drama, In Deep dives headfirst into the troubling state of the mysterious networks that keep our water clean and coming out of the tap. We explore when “out of sight, out of mind” could get us in deep doo-doo, because the ugly truth is that these complex systems are just as imperfect as the people who created them. In Deep will plumb the depths of the complex mysteries behind the clean water in our lives. It’s an engrossing tale that mirrors the very development of our present-day human civilizations — and is shockingly just as fallible.
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