'TakePart Live: TPL Disrupt' Series: Human Waste

Jacob Soboroff sets out to explore waste, sewage, and how toilet-to-tap water can help solve shortages during droughts.
Feb 19, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Yoonj Kim is an independent journalist and producer in Los Angeles.

Poop is no laughing matter. Our sanitation system and the drought that’s stricken California are closely linked, as we found out in this week’s "TPL Disrupt" on TakePart Live, “Human Waste.” Host Jacob Soboroff and the team took a tour of the San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant, where the wastewater of one million people in Los Angeles County is treated.

Sam Pedroza, the L.A. County Sanitation Districts environmental planner from our “Trash” segment, joined us again, along with his colleague Jeff Valdes. The two of them took us around the San Jose Creek facility, starting with a crash course on the L.A.’s sanitation system that ultimately ended with us drinking a sample of treated toilet water.

Basically what happens is that the waste we flush from our toilets goes through several stages of treatment, with the waste being separated from the water, which is then essentially sanitized and becomes the tap water that flows through our faucets months later. Toilet to tap, as our guides would say. Jacob and the team had the pleasure of sampling this filtered water, which only eight hours earlier contained feces, urine, and other elements that are flushed down toilets.

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This coincides with the drought that California is currently experiencing, as much of it could be alleviated if we took this treated water and put it directly back into our taps. As it stands currently, it takes several months for the water to reenter our homes.

One of the campaigns from the Sanitation Districts is to educate the public about this process so that people become more accustomed to the idea that all drinking water is recycled, as the Earth only contains so much of it.

"TPL Disrupt" is TakePart Live's original documentary series. This is the ninth of the weekly features that will combine investigative and participatory docu-journalism.