Flush It: Mapping the Journey of Pittsburgh’s Wastewater

Have you ever wondered how fast your flush travels under the city?

ALCOSAN TREATMENT PLANT | PHOTOS BY JARED MURPHY

If you’ve ever had a question about what happens after a toilet flushes, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) has a new tool to let you learn all the dirty details. 

Flush It is an interactive map that traces the path of toilet flushes, highlighting the journey of wastewater under the city of Pittsburgh. After you enter the address of a home or business, the map shows a line that follows the sewer pipes from the selected bathroom to the ALCOSAN plant on Preble Avenue. 

The site also provides facts about how far the waste travels and how fast the water moves along its journey. While the process may seem instantaneous for the flusher, the map shows that waste can take hours to reach the final destination.

“You’re able to see pretty exactly where these pipes are, where this infrastructure is. And when you flush the toilet, it’s going somewhere. It has a life after it leaves the house,” Emily Mercurio, CEO of Civic Mapper, told WESA.

The site was developed by Civic Mapper and 3 Rivers Wet Weather to educate the public about some of the issues the city faces when trying to manage multiple miles of sewage pipes. Issues such as wet weather and pipes malfunctioning can impact the entire network, causing problems for multiple municipalities.

The software for Flush It was adapted from existing programs, making the site’s production free and able to be shared publicly as open source

Categories: The 412