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Hybrid Nature

Sewage Treatment and the Contradictions of the Industrial Ecosystem

Daniel Schneider

Publication Year: 2011

A history of of the industrial ecosystem that focuses on the biological sewage treatment plant as an early example.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Urban and Industrial Environments


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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xii

I’d first like to thank Mike Guthrie, former chief operator at the Northeast Plant of the Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District. While giving my watershed planning class tours of the plant, he first got...


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pp. xii-xiv

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pp. xv-xxx

This book is an environmental history of the biological sewage treatment plant. Biological sewage treatment, like electricity, power generation, telephones, or mass transit, is one of the key technologies...

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1. Natural vs. Artificial: “The Right Way to Dispose of Town Sewage”

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pp. 1-44

At the close of the nineteenth century, prominent physician and sanitarian George Vivian Poore spoke to a London medical society on urban sanitation: “We see the pipes, the engines, the ventilators...

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2. Public vs. Private: “Nature Must Be Circumvented”

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pp. 45-82

In 1914, sanitary engineers in the United States formed an organization with the unlikely name “National Septic Process Protective League.” Eventually representing over two hundred municipalities...

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3. Craft vs. Science: “Be an Operator, Not a Valve Turner”

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pp. 83-124

In a 1936 magazine for sewage treatment plant operators, called The Digester , the Illinois Department of Health provided the following advice to the men who ran the state’s activated sludge...

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4. Profit vs. Purification: “Sewage Is Something to Be Got Rid Of”

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pp. 125-166

In 1927, the Milwaukee Sewerage Commission took to the airwaves to publicize an “epoch making achievement.” “For the first time in the history of sanitation,” the radio broadcast claimed...

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5. The Contradictions Continue: Sewage Treatment since the Clean Water Act

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pp. 167-204

By the late twentieth century, the biological sewage treatment processes that had been developed a century before had become widespread and had become the international convention...

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6. From Sewage to Biotech: “What We Have before Us Is an Industrial Product”

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pp. 205-220

In 1978, Genentech announced the first instance of a human drug created using the new methods of recombinant DNA. Scientists had succeeded in splicing the gene for human insulin into the bacteria E. coli , turning the bacteria into “microscopic ‘factories’”...

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7. Conclusion: The Living Machine®

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pp. 221-230

In 1852, in a speech before a Belgian conference on hygiene, English sanitarian F. O. Ward invoked an explicitly organic metaphor to describe the circulatory system of water and waste that he and Edwin Chadwick were proposing for English cities. Ward described the water pipes...


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pp. 231-294

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 295-312


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pp. 313-338

Urban and Industrial Environments Series

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pp. 339-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780262312509
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262016445

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Urban and Industrial Environments

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