Paul Wheaton and Heath Carrey continue their discussion on sewage treatment and poop beasts that started in podcast 223. They continue with their concerns on using the wood from the poplar project because of the pharmaceutical, the chemicals, and the heavy metals that could be present in the poop Kool-Aid.
Heath talks about what the poplar project site looked like before he started and describes the planting technique he used for the poplars. He says that after only 4 years, one can see that soil is starting to build. Paul points out that the project is very much a monocrop. Heath agrees and explains that he was able to convince the authorities to also plant few other species. He points out that many volunteer species are starting to show up as well: elm, Russian olives, rose bushes, etc.
They go on and try to predict what the site will look like in the future. Heath says that in 40 years or so the canopyshould start to close, which will change the composition of the ground cover. Paul predicts that after 120 years, heavy metals will have accumulated to a point where the trees cannot grow anymore.
Heath mentions that the current plan is to use the wood after about 12 years. Paul and him talk about a safer way to use the wood than making hard wood floors.
Heath talks about fungus breaking down chemicals and chelation methods for heavy metals.
They talk about all that is not known and the risk of screwing up the project because of the unknown unknowns.
Paul and Heath then talk about eliminating centralized poop treatment and the risk of some people screwing up the river by doing composting toilets wrong.
[I copy this post as well to the thread for podcast #223 - Poop Beast pt1, because it applies to both halves of the podcast]
One observation and one question:
1) Paul really made me laugh in this podcast when, in a sarcastic tone, he implied that people generally don't go to visit sewage treatment plants just in order to stand around and watch the water in the big settling ponds. This is of course generally true, and in fact many such facilities aren't open to the public. But I happen to have grown up the son of one of the more preeminent birdwatchers in the state of Maryland. He and a select group from the Southern MD Audubon had an arrangement with the major sewage treatment facility up the highway. And so, I actually spent many a day during my childhood gazing across the ponds of settling poop coolaid and exploring the little thickets of woodland between the ponds, even if I would have rather been home watching my Saturday morning cartoons at the time, LOL!
2) I was amazed at the point discussed in this podcast that man-made chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, taken up by sewage-irrigated trees might not only remain present in the wood years later, but might actually be absorbed through the skin from the finished lumber from those trees if it were, say, made into floor boards. My first reaction was that any such concern must surely be totally overblown. But then again, what do I really know about it? Nothing. I would be very curious to see what type of research has been done into this type of thing. Is it really feasible for chemicals to be transmitted in such a way? In any appreciable amounts?
@Adrian, sorry for not answering on you post earlier, I was away for the weekend. I do not know what concentrations we are looking at when it comes to Pharmaceuticals and which ones are the predominant ones. I could find out though if I can find the time to sift through some papers.
As for chemicals getting absorbed through the skin or breathing from wood that has taken up man made chemicals through sewage water. I personally don't think that there is any problem. Maybe one or two molecules make it through this long chain of events, but it is very unlikely or nearly impossible to have any effect on our body. I think the drinking water issue is a far more problematic one. Many chemicals will get altered and changed throughout the pathway that they flow through. Especially plants have a wonderful way of changing and breaking down chemicals. What ever is in your floorboards, I am sure that the glue and varnish that is put on them is several orders of magnitude more detrimental to ones health than leftover pharmaceuticals.
I take it a little bit like I take cigarette smoke. While it is fashionable to complain about the health effects of cigarette smoke and second (or now even third) hand smoke I think the danger is much much lower when walking passed a smoker than standing behind a school bus at a red traffic light. Nobody ever says anything about that. Our kids get lulled in Diesel fumes every day and yet the one guy with the cigarette on the other side of the car park gets troubled because he/she is endangering our kids health.
Nils Rehmann wrote: I do not know what concentrations we are looking at when it comes to Pharmaceuticals and which ones are the predominant ones. I could find out though if I can find the time to sift through some papers.