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Here's an answer for when nature calls

If the power goes out during a hurricane, one of the least savory consequences may be a sewage backup.

Here's how the system works:

Lift stations, powered by electricity, pump sewage to treatment plants. If the power goes out, the lift stations can't pump, and sewer lines become clogged. (Some stations have backup generators. In other cases, a pump truck is sent to the site. But there are lots of lift stations, and generators and trucks can provide only limited pumping capacity.)

You'll know there's a problem if nothing happens when you flush, or if sewage starts to back up in your toilet.

You'll need to come up with an emergency toilet. There are a couple of options. One idea is a 5-gallon paint can with a snap-on lid. Line it with a large, heavy-duty plastic bag. Use that as your toilet.

Keep the cover on the can between uses to contain odors and ward off flies.

When the bag starts to get full, double-tie it. Keep it separate from your other garbage.

A variation, suggested by St. Petersburg Times reader Deborah Goldich of Holiday: "We have ready a plastic bucket that we line with grocery store plastic bags. After each use, we simply tie up the plastic bag and toss it in the trash can — sort of like a doggy-doo bag for people. It keeps the bucket clean and odor-free for the next person's use and there's no messy bucket scrub-out."

Your city or county will announce pickup procedures for human waste. It's important to make sure the plastic bags don't split open and create a health hazard. If you're placing individual grocery store bags in a larger plastic bag, as suggested above, make sure the big plastic bag is heavy-duty and won't tear easily.

An alternative is a chemical toilet such as those sold at sporting goods stores.

The problem may be generated not just by a power outage. A sewer line could be undermined by floodwaters and breaks. That would take some time to fix, and affected residents would need to know how to cope.

Here's an answer for when nature calls 05/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 11:09am]
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