Grandpa’s Stories, The Day I Fell in the Sewer.
Friday: Grandpa’s Stories, Falling in a Sewer Pond
Dad worked for 56 years in the pulp and paper industry. This is the story of a near-death experience in the 1950’s. There was no OSHA in those days, so if the safety measures seem a bit lacking, it was a sign of the times. This particular incident happened in a Kraft mill–one way of processing pulp for paper. If you’ve ever lived near a pulp mill, you know they are smelly. My dad always told me when I complained, that it was the smell of food on the table and clothes on my back.
Making Paper for Dummies
I had to have a crash course in the paper making process this morning so I could set the scene for this video. I have been around pulp and paper mills all my life but the real process is way more involved than I ever realized. My husband finally got through to me with the analogy of cooking a pot roast. Ah, cooking–something I understand. Consider the wood chips (raw material) the pot roast. We cook the roast, adding herbs, salt, pepper, maybe something acidic like tomato juice, wine, broth or vinegar to break down the fibers. Heat plus the liquid and additives soften the meat and make it edible.
Paper makers cook wood chips with chemicals added to break down the fibers enabling the paper-making process. Apparently, there is something called lignin that is a good thing you want out of the chips as bio-fuel. After I cook a pot roast I am left with the fat/grease, the meat juices and the sticky bits in the bottom of the pan I want to keep for flavor. I scoop the grease off. Apparently, if I were commercially minded I would burn the grease for fuel, but I throw it away. I save the liquid and the brown bits for gravy.
In making paper the stuff you are left with after cooking the chips is a lot of water, some chemicals, the lignin, black liquor, green liquor, white liquor and other stuff depending on where you are in the process. The liquor is gross, stinky and caustic–not anything you would drink but like the brown bits in my cooking pot–useful. There is apparently some blow drying involved, switching to hair-do metaphor, sorry. Then the stuff and water that is unusable, along with some good bits that are missed, gets sent to sewer ponds (at least in the 1950’s it was). When there is a problem, it can back-up, make foam and ruin the “motors brushes” (no idea what the brushes are for except they are not for hair). I assume it’s like your septic tank when the pump doesn’t work–super yucky!!
Don’t Do This, The Moral
So when Dad’s story opens, the pump for the sewer wasn’t working. Foam built up and ran over the pond to the height of Dad’s chest (he was 6 ft. 3 in. then). Dad, worried about the motor brushes, and apparently not worried about his safety, went to investigate, not telling anyone where he was going. The foam was flowing across the roadway, he waded through the chest high foam to reach the sump pond (he calls it Sump D, which only tells me there was an A,B, and C.). He walked up steps, then across a plank that stretched to the edge of the pond. He couldn’t see through the foam, so didn’t know where the plank ended and literally “walked the plank” off the end, into the pond. The moral of this story, always let someone know where you are going, or don’t walk through caustic foam in the first place. Here is his story: