Odd items survive draining journey

They know what's going on in your loo

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 07:23 06/12/2013
Wastewater
MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ
DRAIN TREASURES: Palmerston North wastewater treatment plant senior supervisor Mike Monaghan has a collection of items that should not have gone down the loo, but did.

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Staff at Palmerston North's wastewater treatment plant know more about what people do in the toilet than anyone wants to know.

And it is not entirely what the plumbing was designed for, says senior treatment plant supervisor Mike Monaghan.

A collection of the more random offerings people have made to the porcelain bowl over the years has been collected and is displayed on a shelf at the Totara Rd plant.

One of the largest objects is a boomerang that did not come back.

There are lots of little toys and cars that one might assume were posted down the loo by little people who could not be expected to know better.

And then there are the false teeth.

According to plant folklore, a man did get in contact once, realising his dentures had been flushed. He came to check what was on the shelf, could not find his own but did locate a set that fitted well enough, and wandered off happy.

But that could be an urban myth.

Most people do not want their belongings back once they have been through the sewerage system.

Mr Monaghan knows this, because it is relatively easy to trace the owner of a driver's licence or bankcard. But no. People have preferred not to have them returned.

When he says people, he means women for the most part.

Not a single driver's licence belonging to a man has been found, pointing to a fundamental difference between the sexes. Think about it. Or not. The cellphones and keys that went down the toilet may also have been back-pocket casualties.

No goldfish have ever made it to the plant in an identifiable piece.

Mr Monaghan said most of the items in the collection were recovered when staff were doing routine maintenance on pumps.

Quite a few were caught on the automated, fine step screen that carries off sanitary items and condoms and anything larger than 3 millimetres in diameter from the incoming wastewater.

And in case you wondered, wastewater is not a euphemism.

The flow into the plant is 99.9 per cent water - from the bath, the shower, the laundry and the kitchen, as well as the toilet - carrying everything from shower gel foam to detergents and food scraps, as well as human waste.

Mr Monaghan said the collection was kept for entertainment but he hoped it did make people think about where water and its contents went after going down the drain.

In particular, he would like to see more people switch to using phosphorus-free products, especially in the kitchen and laundry.

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"The less people put in, the less we need to remove, and the less we have to spend on chemicals to remove it."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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