At one time, the only things you worried about finding in sewers were alligators, but Roto-Rooter — the international plumbing and drain company — has rescued everything from guns, illegal drugs, GI Joe dolls, live cats, electric razors, currency, coins, snakes, prosthetic eyeballs, iPods and even an unexploded Civil War cannon shell from toilets, drainpipes and trenches over the past several years. Sewers have even served was watery graves for some misfortunates.
The 5 top weird things that go flush from a 2007 survey from the company’s 5,000 field technicians throughout North America include:
1. Hold On to Your Choppers
Rock Hill, South Caroline — in June, a frantic customer told the service technician, “I desperately need your help, I dropped my teeth down there.” Roto-Rooter recovered the man’s dentures intact and in great shape. The man said he intended to use them again — but only after a good cleaning.
2. The Manssierre
Plainfield, Illinois — Like something from a Seinfeld series, a technician went to a commercial business and cabled a toilet in the men’s restroom that was exclusively for male employees. He discovered the cause of the clog was a training bra.
3. Caught with His Pants Down (the Drain)
Toledo, Ohio — On June 6, 2007, Ottawa County Jail personnel attempted to unclog a stubborn toilet block unsuccessfully in one of the jail cells. A Roto-Rooter service technician determined the source of the clog as a pair of orange prisoner pants. The jailbird who would have been released merely 4 days after he clogged his toilet pleaded no contest to criminal mischief and was sentenced to another 30 days.
4. Diamonds — a Girl’s Best Friend
Grand Rapids, Michigan — on December 8, a Roto-Rooter tech used a fiber optic sewer camera and coat hanger taped to a cable to recover a $7,000 diamond engagement ring that was unintentionally flushed down the toilet. The customer complained about the price but his wife hastily intervened and tipped the plumber $20 above his fee.
5. Fresh Air? Not Down There!
Erie, Pennsylvania — December 18th, a Roto-Rooter plumber retrieved a large electric plug-in air freshener caught in the toilet flange that connects the toilet to the drainpipe in the floor which had been flushed down the toilet. The plumber reported that the air freshener proved ineffective against sewer gases coming out of the pipe.
Sewer alligator stories were once thought to be an urban legend dating back to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, based on reports of alligator sightings in rather unorthodox locations, particularly in New York City.
But in 1935, Teddy May, the city’s Superintendent of Sewers, witnessed a large number of alligators — most about 2 feet (61 centimeters) long — to be living within pipes that emptied into the trunk lines below major streets.
Although the story of the ‘Sewer Gator’ in New York City is well known and various versions have been told and built up over the decades, recent reports validate that the stories are much more than urban myth.
A trapper reported an abundance of the reptiles in sewers in Ormond Beach, Florida, as he told WFTV that they were using the sewer to travel through the city after sighting the first one with its tail sticking out from a sewer pipe in October 2005.
Trapper Joe Borelli Jr. tapes the mouth shut of an alligator.
Photo Times / Boyzell Hosey
The St. Petersburg Times reported a 9 foot, 10 inch alligator was found at Lakeshore Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg in June 2006.
And the Huston Press tells of a 600 pound gator that was so fat it couldn’t spin around in a 3 foot wide drain in Texas, May 2006.
More Bizarre Sewer Objects
Beothuk of Calgary, Alberta in Canada recently compiled a collection mostly from the Edmonton, Alberta Project he was involved in, stating he’s even found bullets at a prison in Saskatchewan.
They looked for drugs that were flushed quite a few times, and a coworker was called in for a murder investigation, checking to see if the wife “disposed of a certain body part.”
Things he found at work which now reside on his dashboard. Photo Beothuk
Pulled out of a line in Edmonton, Alberta, Beothuk said this jaw is about the same
size as a human’s, which scared them a lot when they saw it. Photo Beothuk
Details of a Calgary sewer manhole lid. Photo Beothuk
New York City Sewer Finds
But the best place to see Manhattan’s byproducts — what gets stuffed down its sinks, flushed down its toilets and washed from its gutters — cannot be found in tour guides, but at the Manhattan Grit Chamber, which strains solids from much of the borough’s sewage as it flows underground to the Wards Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Manhattan Grit Chamber. Photo NY Times
“This is where it all winds up,” said John Ahern, who oversees the chamber.
Sewage flows by gravity to 1 large main where it’s cleaned of toxins and released as purified water into the river.
To keep the tunnel clear, grit and other solid materials must be strained before the sewage enters. That’s where the chamber comes in.
At the Manhattan chamber, sewage enters through a 12 foot wide main and flows into a basement room. The sediment is collected by an arm that sweeps the bottom of the canal and empties into buckets that automatically rinse the grit and lift it up to the ground floor, where it’s deposited in metal bins.
John Ahern says the list of things he’s seen and seen strained from New Yorkers’ sewage provide enough fodder for a 1-man show.
In a bin of screenings, there were mostly rags, soiled paper towels, condoms, rubber gloves, MetroCards, dental floss and tampon applicators — that and a dead rat. There is no demure way of describing other contents.
“Sometimes you find money.” he said, looking into the bins. “We get a lot of stuffed animals, anything kids throw down the toilet.”
“We get a lot of turtles and fish. We’ve had a canoe come in here; it got caught on the screen. We’ve had pieces of telephone poles, Christmas trees, you name it — mattresses, dead dogs. We got a live dog once.”
And yes, the sewers sometimes become a grave for the unfortunate.
“We’ve had a few dead bodies.” he said. “We got a homeless woman, but it’s mostly men. Once we had a guy who was shot. The last one we had was a homeless guy, a few years ago in the Bronx. They go into the manholes to look for jewelry and money, and then they get overcome with gas, go unconscious and die down there.”
And New York isn’t the only city with sludge-filled watery graves for the misfortunate.
A woman in Germany put an end to her troubled marriage by chopping up her husband and flushing parts of him down the toilet, authorities in Brisbane said on January 9 2008.
“You won’t find him, I’ve flushed him down the toilet’, is what she told [her children],” said Andre Hartwich, a spokesman for police in the western city of Duesseldorf.
The children, who reported their father missing before Christmas, told police the marriage was “steeped in hatred.”
The woman had previously attempted to poison her husband, and on one occasion she had seriously injured him with a hammer. Police were shocked that the long-suffering husband had never reported these incidents.
On the night that the man was last seen, neighbors reported hearing the toilet being constantly flushed. Police are working on the assumption that the woman had chopped up her husband’s body into small pieces, disposing of some in garbage bins and flushing the rest of the body down the toilet.
Police forensic experts were able to detect traces of blood in the living room, hall and bathroom.
Sources: VN Boards, NY Times, Brisbane Times, Spero News and Wikipedia