You Don’t Know Shit: VICE Reports (Full Length)


every day our country must find a place to park five billion gallons of human waste and we appear increasingly unable to find a space municipalities across the states constantly deal with sewage spills and the nightmare is only getting worse as a never-ending stream of people to send upon our cities more human beings means more human fecal matter when Hurricane sandy shut down six New York City sewage plants millions of gallons of raw sewage spewed across the streets imagine New York City inundated in its own fecal matter in a matter of hours America’s biggest metropolis would be a ghost town wake up in the morning and you turn on a fortune to brush your teeth everybody’s happy where it goes from there nobody cares I’m standing on a lot of aren’t I you are there’s 3 million gallons of organic material in each of the eggs you are about to see wait like the of a million people seething into one gigantic methane fart here we go Vinny New York City home to eight million people and 22 million more who visit and live close by all of whom wake up get out of bed brush their teeth and flush the toilet our assignment was to look into something nobody wants to talk about we had to follow human fecal matter from the flush all the way through the sewage system to its final resting spot wherever that might be we used to dump our crap in our nation’s oceans rivers lakes and bays but now that’s against the law so what happens to this massive volume of turds this is a story about where that goes who takes the what happens to this after that and why in all likelihood you haven’t unknowingly been eating byproducts of your own for years every day 24 million pounds of human excrement flow through thousands of miles of pipes to 14 so-called wastewater treatment plants to start our investigation we visited the largest of New York City sewage treatment plants which happens to be within walking distance of Isis Brooklyn offices we’re here at Newtown Creek New York City’s largest solid waste facility because you think when you flush the toilet it goes away it does not it comes here we met up with a Deputy Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection Vincent Sapienza and plant chief eric CLE to show us the system Newtown Creek is one of the newest and most advanced solid waste treatment plants in the world completed in 2012 at the cost of four billion dollars it is won awards for its beauty and architecture there’s a lot of hardware and technology around here and we couldn’t believe how many people have to deal with what we don’t want to deal with the main job at Newtown Creek is to separate the water from biological waste but before that these guys have to remove all the junk that comes through the sewers and this is where the raw sewage first comes in to look look look there it is if you look all the way down you can smell it oh and look you see right here I can see some toilet paper there is so many some used use toilet paper over there that the rake has brought up step back a little you’re gonna hit sweats yeah you’re gonna get a splash the rake pulls up everything you might expect like aluminum cans Hospital red bag waste oil spills blood vomit and lots of baby wipes they have also brought up quite a few vials of cocaine and countless millions of counterfeit money one waste professional told us off-camera that they found aborted fetuses and even live dogs like it looks like there’s a big rock over here like that’s grease that’s like a big chunk of grease like you see huge chunks what’s the biggest chunk in grease he ever saw this is why you’re always told not to dump cooking oil into your sink it turns into this see latter buys the rakes take out the big stuff in this room removes the small stuff like bottle tops and bubble gum wrappers does not smell good here how much do you spend just an air filter about a hundred thousand just for this plant under grand for air filters at yeah you need some more in here Eric and Vinny have been working in human residuals for a long time all of this stuff they say the rake the air filters the computers the pipes and the tanks are here for a reason to remove the poison from New York City sludge so this is it this is the treated sewage now leaving the plants it’s going out of this overflow structure down a pipe that runs down India Street and into the East River so this goes straight to the East River how long did this water tank to go from my flush back to the street I thought it was more like two out the high rate flow it’s a high rate flow two hours on other slowly I flush it hits this plant and two hours later that water is back on the street now that Newtown Creek has removed the garbage and discarded the water what we’re left with is pure sludge which now must be thoroughly vetted and examined and that involves PhDs in poop chemistry you know it makes you think twice when you drink the water because it’s a closed system yes what you’re starting to realize that water like it’s been around a couple of times oh hello what you got there let’s see oh my god so you’re walking around carrying little vials of that’s nice yes I’m actually gonna go take a look at it now see what’s in it what are these scientists doing why is it so important to study what we don’t want to look at turns out the Environmental Protection Agency always looking out for us needs to know about possible hazards in our eliminations federal regulations govern sludge so more than 60 scientists work in this building they inspect everything that’s in the sludge including traces of Prozac caffeine and Chanel number five keep in mind that mixed within the stew of Newtown Creek comes every effluent of cancer patients at hospitals every sort of industrial poison everything that goes down every single drain so we’re looking for is what comes out of our bodies is is kind of poisonous it’s what we’re looking to do is neutralize it so let me ask you a question what you’re seeing here is they some of these come from Red Hook you know and you can know specifically where they’re coming from yeah there are labels basically when we receive the sample we compounded so are some of these like some of these parts of Brooklyn worse than others like is Red Hook let’s say worse than Greenpoint like what’s the word food good sometimes it’s depend on that’s what we give them all this results which one is bad which one is good which one is which one is generally bad who wears the worst stuff coming from the woods which one which one which one is it all the worst somebody somebody from is it the Red Hook guys as Park Slope every step and with each inspection our waste is transforming into something other than what it was everyone is now referring to it as biosolids it was around this time that we really started to wonder where it was going so the water is now clean and in the East River the scientists had their samples of concentrated bio solids but we wanted to know where do the tons and tons of human waste go here we are at the top of the top of the park so this is a pressure relief valve that if too much pressure from gas builds up in the digesters that can just open on its own and relieve itself but I’m gonna open it for you just what you can get a sense of what it sounds like and smells this is it man you are about to see what like the of a million people seething into one gigantic methane fart here we go Vinny what do you think god we’re seeing the biosolids from Newtown Creek moving through this pipe right here onto this boat and we’re gonna head with it to Ward’s Island for the next stage in the development of human fecal matter we met the captain of the Newtown Creek you might not have realized it with those big boats with DEP on their side are traveling around New York Harbor transporting human waste these ships run every day even in a national crisis that’s all about that’s signaling a plant that we’re done loading so then they’re gonna blow back to us fecal matter has always posed a challenge to society for millions of years the history of the human race has been the history of moving across planet Earth and leaving behind steaming piles of human waste but when civilization begins in human being stay in one spot it is the waste that has to move if the waste doesn’t move cities can’t exist when Cortez met the great Montezuma in Mexico he found sludge boats floating in the capital city without sewage there would have been no glories of Alexandria Rome in Philadelphia New York’s first wastewater treatment plant was built the same year the Statue of Liberty arrived as one of our guys says you’d have to sludge banking up in Times Square actually up until about was it 20 years ago these boats used to take the sludge out and just dump it 12 miles out and they realized that the tide was still bringing sludge back in in the old days the journey would have stopped when the boat dumped its cargo in the ocean but in 1992 the United States banned ocean dumping so now the boat ride is just a part of the process but we still don’t know where it ends so after 30 days of fermentation in the digesters of Newtown Creek the biosolids were loaded into the barge and would now be escorted up the East River to the next processing plant located on Ward’s Island hey Rick I see you got the steering are we ready to go okay Joey you got the bow go coddle up Stern go hold the spring line what’s gonna happen with that sludge when it gets towards Island we pump it off and the plant dee waters it they Steve goes through a centrifuge and they spin at a high rate and get the water out of it and then what’s left behind is solids and then what after that that’s out of my area we’re about one-and-a-half miles from our destination of wards island with 80,000 cubic feet of sludge we’re gonna send it out the boat and be water it over there but still nobody has been able to reveal the ultimate destination nobody will tell me where my poop is going guarantee security tank at Newtown Creek is eastbound off 72nd Street powerhouse bound through the gate be rounding up woods Island Newtown Creek waiting for us at Ward’s Island was John McCabe also known as the plant manager I’ll go upstairs to the second floor that’s where all the action happens Newtown Creek separated the water and trash from the waste and here at the dewatering plant we are squeezing even more liquid out of the solid this would be the century there it is you can’t now but it’s extremely bad in here it’s the worst we’ve been yet this there’s all over the floor this is like the kingdom of raw sewage it’s just gonna cripple life as we know it we have to treat it you have to treat the sewage otherwise we wouldn’t be able to sustain life that’s the cake product that’s right out of the machine that’s as fresh as it gets the cake then moves from centrifuges to dozens of conveyor belts we’re looking at the bottom of the center fuse the dry product is dropped by gravity onto this conveyor belt Horizon cake and this horizon up cake that’s correct endless stream doesn’t stop it does not stop this place smells so bad it hurts I mean it literally hurts your head they call it cake but it’s human and it’s filling up 25 of these trucks every day each each biosolids contract goes to a different cycle so we don’t really know Benny would know but we had asked Vinnie earlier and he hadn’t given us a satisfying answer so either no one knows or no one is telling us questions remained where was it going why were they studying and what would be the ultimate fate of our daily waste maybe the professional suspected us common people might not be ready for the truth we’re here at Ward’s Island waiting for the ship trucks to come out of the dewatering plant nobody would tell us the final destination of our ship so we’re staking it out and as the trucks come out we’re just gonna pull around and follow it no matter where it takes us in fact here comes a cop I think too much noise no you’re good I love the fact that they guard the what if they do in those guys the little are coming around where is the big ship truck where is big brother see it in here about two hours first truck is born we did so next time you see a truck with residual waste printed on the side you’ll know it is 25 tons of human we’re gonna follow this guy we don’t know where he’s going but he’s on the Deegan we’re headin north on the loose on the Deegan so here we are on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge used to go into the Hudson now it’s flying over at about 50 miles per hour we are now on little side streets in New Jersey in some sort of industrial area I mean where is my going this is do we gotta just get out and ask him this dude is stopping weird okay yeah go ask how you doing how are you no I just we we saw you leave Ward’s Island that way you follow me I move in with you I know I know line up where you going once again another person getting in the way of us reaching the destination of the cargo turns out our driver had called the duty patrol and they were waiting for us at this truck Depot they asked us to put our camera down we asked them where the truck was going and they wouldn’t say we were time from day one look there’s media I mean it seems seems like every single turn on the trail people are completely paranoid they want to know what we’re doing they want to see our credentials so we told them we told them we’re following the ship we got permission what’s wrong with that they did mention a company we care organics only an hour away turned out to be a blessing the truck driver pulled over out of fear we looked into we care and discovered that these guys hold the main contract with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection you’re seeing over on the left-hand side of the facility those are receiving doors so the biosolids get dumped in there we met a nice guy named Ryan Surratt oh we care pays Ryan to sell human waste turns out he has no hang-ups about what he does selling it is not the easiest thing but it’s certainly not the hardest because there is a tremendous value anything from household gardening to large large landscape construction projects I mean we’ve done projects where we’ve supplied twenty thousand cubic yards of compost to remediate a site we’ve done fescue at airports everything from planting tomatoes in someone’s backyard I was shocked at what Ryan was telling me seemed like breaking news but according to him human excrement is being used all over the place and has been for years we care his deals with cities all over the Northeast New York and other cities pay we care and companies like them to haul their waste away and then they sell it this business model is brilliant they get paid at both ends so to speak the future was in front of us I think that more and more municipalities are going to require that they beneficially use their biosolids and that’s where we come in we have an entire technology division that specializes in finding new technologies to help better make compost products the Environmental Protection Agency has standardized two tiers of sludge the highest quality can be sold to farmers and gardeners that’s known as Class A and that is what Ryan sells so from the sewers of New York to the settling tanks to the centrifuges to the process here at we care the poison has become a treasure Ryan’s job is to take the organic material and convince people that it is better cleaner and safer than any other type of compost out there every day he meets the challenge the eternal concern of his clients it’s human and no one wants to touch it much less grow a salad from it but Ryan is good at his job and he took us to meet one of his favorite clients everyone’s nervous about having to answer the question what is this compost you have what’s it made out of no one wants to say human waste everyone’s scared to say it what would you be you know we have a plant manager that said he could put it on a Triscuit and eat it you know it’s I don’t know that I would do that but you certainly wouldn’t harm you I mean we we test it every week every load that coming into the facility is tested before it even goes in hey Frank good to see it this is Fred Frank runs Oasis garden center in Lawrence Township New Jersey he is very excited about human waste which he uses on everything how long you’ve been using the week air I’ve been using this for a couple years I’ve tried all different type of products what I found with the other products is a lot of times they just didn’t have the nutrient or if it was too fresh it would basically just burn the grass if it would be too acid II this is organic 100% and we’re not gonna fertilize no extra 10-10-10 this is it we tried it last season with a small patch the tomatoes were the biggest I think all the years we’ve been doing farming out here it’s a little warm when you touch it but it grows grass the best I’ve ever seen Frank is not alone thousands of farmers and retailers are doing the same thing with this new global product human fecal matter is being used in tons of ways all around the country in the world an estimated 10 million Chinese farmers use raw sewage to irrigate and fertilize cropland and they’ve been doing it for thousands of years wine vineyards grow their grapes on biosolids this ski resort in Arizona uses poop water to make snow you may have flushed it down the toilet but it doesn’t go away this is the beginning of a zero waste Society and for guys like Frank the results have been fabulous we’re gonna do a mass planting with it I mean we’re putting in thousands of tomato plants this year with it strawberries are out it’s a little muddy out there but I can show you how we plant this but not everyone is 100% behind this bio solid revolution activists warned against high levels of arsenic lead and Mercury and surveys have uncovered the germs of pneumonia and encephalitis there’s still no proof that the toxic chemicals in the soil transfer into the plants we eat not enough studies have been done no conclusions have been reached the EPA might approve it but can we trust that you and your next-door neighbor may be hooked up to a sewer but so is your local hospital Whole Foods has recently declared that they won’t sell any products grown from bio solids and the Commonwealth of Virginia home of the Marlboro cigarette Monte Cristo’s cigar and skull smokeless has warned against using bio solids on tobacco it’s nice to know that the state producing well over a billion cigarettes a year is worried about our health then again it’s our and there are a lot of people who might not want to touch it or eat it or smoke it see all the strawberries are starting to pop up oh yeah they all right now just in these couple sections alone there’s 5,000 strawberries so you can see all the three law well it’s you pick so besides people eating them on the run no sir if we’re gonna sell we’re given options you know and I’m just looking for the next best thing no wonder people weren’t eager to tell us the fate of our poop turns out it’s all around us everywhere all the time maybe it’s just another fact of life color of your skin religion gay straight poop perhaps it’s time to get over your hang-ups you don’t know but maybe you know a little more now so from the toilets of Manhattan down the drain to Newtown Creek to the barge towards Island into the trucks and over the George Washington Bridge and into New Jersey into the compost and finally here to the Oasis garden center do these strawberry fields where in just a couple of months the parents will come with their children and frolic and play and the children will eat their fill of strawberries and go home to the toilet and the cycle will begin all over again

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