The Cliche Sewer Level

A writer tags along a team of sewer workers operating under London:

The ladder is rusty and damp. With each rung, I expect to smell the smell. It never comes. ‘That’s what people do,’ says Smith. ‘They get down, take a sniff, say: “Is that poo?” I say yes. They say: “It doesn’t smell much does it?” They think that because when they go to the toilet, it smells, that this will too. They think it’ll smell like three million toilets.’ But it doesn’t. An average toilet flush uses seven gallons of water. Down here, the water content of the flow is 98 per cent. After a storm, it’s sometimes 99.9 per cent. Some sewers do stink, of faeces and chemicals and paint resins, but not this one. With no stink to distract me, I take in the sights: the bricks, the drips, the Fleet stretching away in both directions. I would stop in my tracks, if there weren’t three men behind me, and a job to be done.


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