Modern Problems

Dear Liza,

When we visited London years ago, Grandpa Nelson and I saw lots of streets torn up, and the dirt that was being dug smelled bad. Stinky bad. Poop bad.

It turns out that in 2004, London was just pulling out the last of its 1906 WOODEN sewer pipes. “Things in Europe are old-fashioned.” I noted.

Old Seattle sewer pipe

Last month on the Seattle Underground tour, we saw an example of one of these wooden pipes that had been used in Seattle for many years. Since sewers and water systems were invented before steel or plastic, pipes to carry water IN and poop OUT were made by drilling two inch holes in logs and joining the logs together with wooden pegs.

Yes, they leaked. Yes, they rotted. But that was the best folks had, and compared to no pipes at all, they were a modern revolution.

Putting a hole in 34th Avenue

This week, our neighborhood in Portland is getting dug up for new drains and sewers, as well as new bioswales. Bioswales are the little street side gardens you saw here, that help clean the street water before it flows into the river.

Installing a new bioswale

As our population has grown, we need bigger sewer pipes. As our respect for the Willamette River has grown, we are diverting more street run-off to bioswales. I am happy to put up with some noise and street closures to keep our water system up-to-date.

Plastic, not wood! Hooray!

And I am very glad that I haven’t seen a single wooden pipe come out of the ground here!


Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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