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New York City has the fourth largest navy in the world?

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This euphemism appears on p. 52 in the February 2008 Harper‘s in a must-read article for all New Yorkers, actually all readers on the planet. The article “Wasteland: A journey through the American cloaca” by Frederick Kaufman tells a tale of these battleship gray vessels with 700,000-gallon capacity each and their role in a usually taboo part of our lives. The issue–pun intended–is universal.

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What flows through that yellow hose above? Answer: “municipal organic residuals” aka egesta, dejecta, sharn, stale, ordure, carbon humanum . . . and choice vernacular terms we utter sometimes in disgust. The shot below shows the new Ikea store on the Red Hook waterfront with the Brooklyn skyline behind it.  The sludge vessel is docked at Owls Head DEP facility.

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Here are some teaser numbers: six hours to decompose what we flush, NYOFCO and Synagro selling 500,000 tons of “product” for $338 million. Sounds like turning “anthropogenic input” into gold. Thanks to Kaufman for this fabulous article and info about a soldier/scholar named Capt. John Bourke, author of Scatalogic Rites of All Nations, preface by Sigmund Freud!

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