Sewer workers bust the “Super Flush” myth
January 30, 2013
However you’re planning to watch Sunday’s big game, in the comfort of your home, at your favorite local restaurant or at a Super Bowl party, one thing is sure: when halftime comes, nature will call. Are city sewer workers worried?
“Not everyone flushes at the exact same moment, and even if I got the whole city to flush at once, the system could handle it,” said City of Carlsbad Wastewater Superintendent Don Wasko. “We have more than enough capacity.”
The myth of sewer systems unable to bear the Super Bowl load was given credence in 1984, when a 16-inch water main in Salt Lake City broke during the big game. But that was apparently coincidental and the pipe would have broken anyway, even during a Leave It to Beaver rerun.
Wasko explains that the City of Carlsbad’s sewer system has 280 miles of pipes stretching to every neighborhood. Most of the waste flows by gravity, but in some places it needs a boost to go over a hill, so 14 lift stations are located at several locations. The City of Carlsbad’s sewer system
serves all but the southernmost city residents. They are served by the Leucadia Wastewater District
and the Vallecitos Water District
Wasko noted the sewer system has daily habits, just like the people who use it.
“In the morning everybody gets up, gets ready for school and work, showers, uses the bathroom, so that’s a busy time” he said. “Then in the late afternoon, when everyone returns home, we have the same thing.”
Neither of these events is enough to strain the system, however.
“Our system is designed to sustain peak wet weather flows, when there’s so much rain that runoff can get into the system,” Wasko said. “And our sewers are sealed pretty tight, so that doesn’t even happen.”
Wasko shared a graph
that depicted the sewer flows in one of the city’s main trunk lines, on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, the day of Super Bowl XLVII. The meter measured the flow in the pipe that runs from Buena Vista Lagoon south to the Encina Wastewater Authority treatment plant on Avenida Encinas, carrying waste from Vista and Carlsbad. Flows were higher than an average weekend afternoon in the three hours before the game, then were considerably below average at kickoff, 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, and continued to decrease.
Flows remained lower than average until about 6 p.m., and as the game wound down flows gradually picked up to conform to the typical pattern for a weekend evening. There was no noticeable increase at halftime, Wasko noted, not even a tiny bump.
“We don’t see a lot of extra activity during halftime, what with the commercials and the halftime show,” Wasko said. “There’s just not a lot of heavy water use that would greatly impact the sewer at halftime. But people are definitely using more water right before the game, and less during the game.”
The graph showed that about 10 million gallons flowed through the pipe on last year’s Super Bowl Sunday, with the peak occurring at noon. For those of you keeping score, 10 million gallons is enough to fill a pool built over the gridiron in the New Orleans Superdome to a depth of 23 feet. Or, if you’re thinking half-time treats, that’s enough to fill 10 million guacamole bowls.
So go ahead, enjoy the Super Bowl this Sunday, root for your favorite team, and don’t be afraid to flush the toilet during halftime. Or any other time.
And if you want to explore other Super Bowl truths and untruths, visit the Snopes.com Super Bowl Legends
Sewer maintenance: A member of the City of Carlsbad Wastewater Division works on sewer maintenance.
Sewer graph: A composite hydrograph compares sewer flow in Carlsbad on Super Bowl Sunday 2012 and typical weekdays and weekends. The green lines are weekdays, the blue line is weekends, and the red line is Super Bowl Sunday.
For more information
Don Wasko, 760-438-2722, email@example.com
City media contact