Why a Train Full of New York City Poop Was Stranded in Alabama for Two Months

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iStock

Residents of Parrish, Alabama probably aren't too fond of New Yorkers right now. That’s because the town is currently home to a full trainload of poop courtesy of the Big Apple, as Bloomberg reports. Some 200 shipping containers of treated sewage have been stuck in Parrish for more than two months while the town takes landfill operators to court.

New York City doesn't keep its own sewage sludge to itself, and it hasn't for decades. In the 1980s, New York City was dumping its "biosolids"—the solids left over from sewage treatment, i.e., your poop—into the Atlantic Ocean, where it settled on the bottom of the sea floor in a thick film stretching over 80 square nautical miles. When the government banned the practice of dumping waste straight into the ocean, the city had to get creative, finding a way to get rid of the 1200 tons of biosolids produced there every day.

Enter the poop train. As a 2013 Radiolab episode taught us (we highly recommend you listen for yourself), treated sludge was eventually shipped out to other states to use as fertilizer in the 1990s. After farmers in Colorado began noticing better growth and fewer pests in the fields they grew with New York City's finest sewer sludge, growers in other states began clamoring to take the big-city poop by the train-full, too. That tide has turned, though, and now no one wants the city's poop. Because of the cost of running the program, the train to Colorado stopped in 2010.

Now, biosolids are instead shipped to landfills upstate and in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to The Wall Street Journal. And Alabama. For more than a year, the Big Sky landfill near Parrish has been accepting New York City biosolids, and the locals who have to deal with trainloads of rotting waste aren’t happy.

Normally, the sludge would be loaded onto trucks and then driven the last stretch to get to the landfill. But Parrish and its nearby neighbor of West Jefferson aren't interested in playing host to those messy poop transfers anymore. As the two towns take the landfill operators to court over it, the trains are stuck where they are, next to Parrish's Little League baseball fields. The trainload of sludge is blocked from either being sent to the landfill or back to New York City. While the city has stopped shipping more waste to Big Sky, it essentially said "no takebacks" regarding what they've already sent south. Short of a legal decision, that poop isn't moving.

Needless to say, the residents of Parrish would really, really like to resolve this before summer hits.

Update: Parrish residents can officially breathe easy. The last of the sludge has now been removed from the town, and Big Sky has ended its operation there, according to a Facebook post from Mayor Heather Hall. The containers that remain have been emptied of their smelly cargo and will be removed sometime before Friday, April 20.

[h/t Bloomberg]

Your Office is Infested With Germs—and In Places You Might Not Expect

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iStock/pixelfit

Elevator buttons and keyboards are teeming with bacteria, and you don’t even want to know what might be lingering on the coffee mug you keep at work. TIME rounded up the five germiest places in the average office, and you’ll probably want to wash your hands after reading it.

Disposable coffee cups are perhaps the most surprising one mentioned. One 1997 study found coliform bacteria (a.k.a. fecal matter) on 20 percent of the cups and lids tested. And those sponges in your office kitchen? They’re absolutely filthy. After the same researchers used a communal sponge or rag to wipe down the coffee cups, 100 percent of them tested positive for fecal bacteria. If lugging your cup to and from the office in order to wash it at home seems tedious, one of the researchers recommended investing in a personal cup washer to keep at work. As TIME notes, disposable coffee cups are also problematic because someone may pick up a couple lids that are stuck together, then return the now-contaminated lids for other, unsuspecting coworkers to use.

Unsurprisingly, objects that people regularly interact with—such as elevator buttons, office doors, and conference room phones—also made TIME’s list. Anything that’s frequently touched and seldom cleaned is a cause for concern because it could carry microbes that make people sick. If you're a frequent business traveler, for instance, you should wash your hands and wipe down your phone after going through airport security. Those plastic bins you stick your shoes, electronics, and personal items inside are germ-infested cesspools.

Another study from 2014 swabbed 120 elevator buttons at three hospitals in Toronto, Ontario. While the study wasn't conducted in an office building, the results were still telling. Researchers discovered that 61 percent of the buttons contained bacteria, compared to only 43 percent of toilets. This is likely due to the fact that toilets are often cleaned more frequently than elevator buttons. The most common type of bacteria found were Coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS), which can be a risk factor for diseases for people with an already compromised immune system or those who have recently undergone certain surgeries or medical procedures.

Lastly, you’ll want to wipe your keyboard and mouse with a disinfectant wipe as often as possible. It might just save you from having to use up your sick days.

[h/t TIME]

Burger King's Halloween Slushie Might Turn Your Poop Black and Blue

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iStock.com/ilbusca

Of all the spooky events surrounding Halloween, peering into the toilet bowl and noticing that your poop has turned bright blue might be the scariest. This could be your new reality if you slurp down one of Burger King’s seasonal Scary Black Cherry slushies, Women’s Health points out.


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give in to your dark side... scary black cherry now at BK for a limited time.

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The black-tinted frozen beverage is made from Fanta soda, and presumably, a fair amount of food dye. Ever since its release ahead of the holiday, customers have been complaining that the drink turned their poo “blackish blue,” neon blue, green, or purple. Similar reports surfaced in 2015 after Burger King introduced a Whopper with a black bun that had been flavored with A.1. Steak Sauce. In that case, customers’ “grass green” bowel movements were blamed on food dye in the bun.

“To make poop turn that color green, it would require far more dye than is in the typical type of A.1.," doctor and nutrition counselor Pamela Reilly told USA Today at the time. "My guess is that they're using a concentrated form."

Although the Scary Black Cherry slushie’s ingredients aren’t listed on the fast food chain’s website, food dye is likely the culprit—once again—of customers' colorful poo. Michigan-based gastroenterologist Michael Rice explained to Women’s Health that food dye mixes with the yellow-green pigments in your bile, which is then excreted in your poop. Darker dyes in particular, like blue and purple, tend to yield the most visible changes in stool color. Beets, licorice, tomato soup, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, candy, and tinted icing can all have the same effect.

From a health perspective, there’s not much to fear, though. Aside from giving you a fright after you go number two, the artificial dyes that Burger King uses are within FDA-approved limits. Your poo should go back to its normal hue in no time.

[h/t Women's Health]

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