Oct 16, 2007

What <i>Are</i> You Drinking?

The water looks clear, but the label on the bottle tells a different story.

"Ingredients," notes the back side of the bottle's label: "Water, fecal matter, toilet paper, hair, lint, rancid grease, stomach acid and trace amounts of Pepto Bismol, chocolate, urine, body oils, dead skin, industrial chemicals (aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, selenium, silver arsenic, mercury,) ammonia, ... soil, laundry soap, bath soap, shaving cream, sweat, saliva, salt, sugar. No artificial colors or preservatives. Some variations in taste and/or color may occur due to holidays, predominant cuisine preference, infiltration/inflow, or sewer cross-connections."

The specially labeled bottle water comes courtesy of the North Davis Sewer District.

Sewer-district manager Kevin Cowan hands out bottles to those who tour its facilities.

Cowan says he's trying to make a point with the disgusting ingredients.

"We make them (visitors) think it is the treatment product," he said. "But it's also a lesson about our environment ... (about) being more conscious about what goes down the drain."

The water doesn't come from sewage, but Cowan says that it's not a stretch to think that it could happen some day.

"This water originated as all-natural sewage collected through high-quality reinforced concrete sewer lines in the high mountain valleys of northern Davis and southern Weber counties," the label says.

"It was then processed using state-of-the-art screening, grit removal, sedimentation/flotation, biological oxidation, solids contact conditioning, and chlorine disinfection on the way back to you. This system is usually effective in removing up to 94 percent of biodegradable pollutants...."

Cowan said the district decided the bottles had promise as an inexpensive way to have fun and promote water quality. He said the public can help by not letting certain products swirl down the drain to end up in the sewer system, particularly paint, gasoline and household solvents.

Cowan said the sewer district recently completed an expansion project that has reduced pollutants by a couple of tons per day. Those are ingredients that would have ended up in the Great Salt Lake.

Layton Councilman Renny Knowlton, who represents the city on the sewer board, handed out the bottled water at a recent meeting.

To the shock of colleagues, Knowlton uncorked a bottle and downed it to prove it really was pure water. A label down the side removed all doubts.

"This bottle contains, pure, safe, drinkable water. Not a product of the North Davis Sewer District," it says.