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Why Sewers Around the World Keep Overflowing

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 Environmental   |   Science
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Find out more about our sewers from the In Deep podcast at

The old combined sewer systems of many major cities are no match for modern storms and impermeable surfaces.

Thanks also to our Patreon patrons and our YouTube members.
To learn more, start your googling with these keywords:
Combined Sewer System: Sewers designed to collect domestic sewage and storm runoff in the same wastewater pipe.
Wastewater Treatment Plant: A facility that filters and cleans wastewater before sending it into nearby waterways.
Combined Sewer Overflow: When the wastewater in a combined sewer system exceeds a certain limit, it bypasses the wastewater treatment plant and goes directly into nearby waterways.
Extreme Rainfall: Storms that cause the wettest days of the year in a particular geographic area.
Invasive Species: Any kind of organism that gets introduced to a new environment and causes harm.
Deep Tunnel Project: A $3 billion civil engineering megaproject designed to reduce flooding in the metropolitan Chicago area.
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Credits (and Twitter handles):
Script Writer, Narrator, and Video Director: David Goldenberg (@dgoldenberg)
Video Illustrator: Arcadi Garcia Rius (@garirius)
With Contributions From: Henry Reich, Alex Reich, Ever Salazar, Peter Reich, Julin Gmez, Kate Yoshida, Sarah Berman

Music by: Nathaniel Schroeder:


Tibbets, J. (2005). Combined Sewer Systems: Down, Dirty, and Out of Date. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113(7): A464A467. Retrieved from:

Olds HT, Corsi SR, Dila DK, Halmo KM, Bootsma MJ, McLellan SL. (2018). High levels of sewage contamination released from urban areas after storm events: A quantitative survey with sewage specific bacterial indicators. PLoS Med. 15(7): e1002614. Retrieved from:

Walsh, J., D. Wuebbles, K. Hayhoe, J. Kossin, K. Kunkel, G. Stephens, P. Thorne, R. Vose, M. Wehner, J. Willis, D. Anderson, S. Doney, R. Feely, P. Hennon, V. Kharin, T. Knutson, F. Landerer, T. Lenton, J. Kennedy, and R. Somerville. (2014) Ch. 2: Our Changing Climate. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 19-67. Retrieved from:

Melosi, Martin. (2000). The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Grabar, Henry. (2019). Tunnel Vision. Slate. Retrieved from:

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