Some jobs really are the pits. While some of us are sitting at cushy desks drinking free coffee and trolling the Internet, other people are digging through literal crap. Such is the case for sewer divers, who sift through sludge to repair motors and clean out clogs in the places where poop—and all the other gross stuff people flush down their toilets—end up.
Vice got the dirt on what the job’s like from Brendan Walsh, a Melbourne-based diver who repairs equipment in no-air environments (including sewage), as the owner of East West Dive. Here are five insights we learned about the messy world of sewage diving.
1. IT’S NOT A VERY SMELLY JOB. REALLY.
“All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out,” Walsh says.
2. IT’S NOTHING LIKE SWIMMING THROUGH A POOL.
He describes the environment of poopy sludge as “completely black, and you have to more walk than swim.” Spooky!
3. YOU CAN’T EAT CHICKEN.
Before you dive, you have to lay off the chicken parm and McNuggets. “Every time someone gets the squirts, and we examine our processes, it always turns out that they ate chicken before the dive,” Walsh says. “I don’t know why, but chicken and sewage don’t mix.”
4. IT’S HIGHLY LUCRATIVE.
Walsh calls it “brown-gold” because “no one wants to touch it, so the dollars are better.” Cha-ching!
5. THERE’S A LOT OF UNDERWEAR IN THERE.
Walsh says he happens upon “lots of condoms, lots of old men’s underwear. I think they flush them in nursing homes after accidents.”
Read Walsh’s whole filthy tale on Vice.