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Keep Your Drains Flowing Free – Part 2

April 9th, 2014

Keep your drains flowing free

by Jerry Alonzy

Part 2 – Solving common drain problems

As we learned in Part 1 of this article, each drain in your home has special characteristics designed to minimize the chance of a blockage, while allowing maximum water flow. For example, some have reduced or restricted openings to keep small items out (such as coins or wedding rings). Toilets have the least restriction on flow, which I think you’ll agree needs no further explanation!

But, despite the designer’s best efforts, all drains have design flaws that can make blockages more likely. Likewise, small behavioral changes on your part can either limit or eliminate the chance of expensive plumbing calls!

I am going to discuss the simplest methods of repairing common blockages. I will not be discussing plumbing snakes, which would be an article in and of itself; but can be needed if these do-it-yourself methods fail.

Blockages caused by “acts of nature,” such as roots growing into your sewer pipes or earthquakes, are out of your control, but most other blockages are repairable by the home handyman.  Here are some do-it-yourself tips to keep your drains flowing. Read more »

Keep your drains flowing free – Part 1

April 2nd, 2014

Keep Your Drains Flowing Free

By Jerry Alonzy

Part 1 – Understanding how your drains work

We talk a lot about water quality and its relationship to health, but the fact is that only half of plumbing is water coming in. The other half is water going out, via your home’s drain or waste water system.


Image via Delta Faucet Company

Plumbing drains seem simple and I guess they are to those of us who have had their benefits for our entire lives. But your home’s drain pipes are not randomly placed… they follow design principles that have been in place for hundreds of years, ever since the recognition that gravity controls the movement of water!

A waste water drain system (regardless of the material it’s made from) must incorporate certain characteristics to function safely and effectively:

1) All drain pipes must slope downwards over their entire length. The slope must be steep enough so that waste-filled water will flow in the desired direction at adequate speed to allow all waste material to exit into the sewer or septic system.

If even a small section of drain pipe is level or, worse, sloped upwards, it will both slow the emptying of the pipe and become a “trap” where waste will tend to accumulate, leading to a blockage over time. Read more »

Interview with Dr. Michael J. McGuire

December 4th, 2013

Image via Wikipedia

Dr. Michael J. McGuire is an environmental engineer whose career has focused on drinking water quality and the history of water. His expertise on the subject of water led him to publish numerous articles and books, such as The Chlorine Revolution. He also frequently updates his two blogs: This Day in Water History and Safe Drinking Water Dot Com, and remains active on twitter. He continues to write extensively on this important world-wide issue.

Since 1971, he has been active in the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and has been a member of other societies such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Chemical Society and the Water Environment Foundation. He received his PhD from Drexel University and has since won awards for his excellence in environmental engineering. In 2009, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Q: What sparked your interest in safe drinking water and water history?

A: I was fortunate to land my first job with the Philadelphia Water Department in 1969. The theoretical information that I had learned about water quality as an undergraduate was brought to life as I participated in projects to safeguard the drinking water for that great city. Samuel S. Baxter, the water commissioner for Philadelphia, convinced me that public service associated with providing safe water was absolutely the best way to spend my career.

The water history bug bit me in 2005 when I wrote an article for the AWWA Journal about the revolutions that occurred in U.S. drinking water disinfection over the previous 97 years. Chlorinating the Jersey City water supply in 1908 was the first revolution, and I became fascinated with the people who were responsible and with the barriers they faced to implement effective water treatment processes. At that time, waterborne disease was a leading killer especially of very young children. What Dr. John L. Leal and George Warren Fuller did back then was extraordinary, and their exploits fed my desire to learn more about the roots of our profession.

Read more »