Maine to Seattle Sewer Solutions


Swedish Road Sign

I started a municipal minutes business when I moved to Maine during a recession — an education in city planning. The Sewer District became my favorite meeting. Environmentalists, quick to criticize the board, had never actually faced the challenge of keeping a town clean. Sewer District reps, who had, claimed “We’re the real environmentalists. We do what’s possible.”

You have to think of people in the context of their times. I write about my father, Hans Pederson, a Danish immigrant who became a major early 20th century Seattle contractor. Back in 1910, the city leveled its steep hills to expand its downtown waterfront. No longer did sewage and water flow downhill only to turn back and shoot up like geysers under the advancing tide. New sewer and water lines created outfalls to Elliott Bay — a boon that followed the advent of flush toilets. The solution fit the times.

Some say that in 1910 the plumber Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet, known as “The Waterfall Waste Remover.” Others believe that his name can only rightly be associated with the function for which it is used. A convoluted trail of patents and folklore connect Crapper’s plumbing company with the Waterfall Waste Remover.

The truth may never be known.

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