7 episodes

When water comes rushing out of the tap, seemingly clear and perfect, it’s easy to think we’ve got it figured out. It’s hard to imagine that the underground labyrinth that brings us drinking water, and takes away our dirty sewage, is old, crumbling and in real trouble. Quench your thirst for knowledge and drama as we dive into the strangely fascinating world of clean water. Hosted by Jed Kim, In Deep is a new podcast from American Public Media’s The Water Main.

In Deep American Public Media

    • Earth Sciences
    • 4.7 • 42 Ratings

When water comes rushing out of the tap, seemingly clear and perfect, it’s easy to think we’ve got it figured out. It’s hard to imagine that the underground labyrinth that brings us drinking water, and takes away our dirty sewage, is old, crumbling and in real trouble. Quench your thirst for knowledge and drama as we dive into the strangely fascinating world of clean water. Hosted by Jed Kim, In Deep is a new podcast from American Public Media’s The Water Main.

    Well, Well, Well

    Well, Well, Well

    In the 1990s, lakes and wetlands dried up in Florida’s fast-growing Tampa Bay region. Some attributed the drastic change to drought; others to overpumping of an underground aquifer. A pitched legal battle, known as the Water Wars, played out. Some government-run utilities wanted to keep pumping from the aquifer; others wanted to look for new water sources. Eventually, they began to work together to find multiple sources of drinking water.

    Guests:


    Randy and Mark Barthle, Barthle Brothers Ranch owners

    Honey Rand, Water Wars author

    Eileen Hart, Tampa Bay resident and water rights activist

    Ken Herd, Tampa Bay Water, chief science and technical officer

    Radhika Fox, US Water Alliance, chief executive officer




    Photo: Courtesy of Tampa Bay Water

    • 26 min
    Small Town, Big Struggles

    Small Town, Big Struggles

    Today we leave the big cities behind and ask: How does rural America manage its water infrastructure? After all, one in five U.S. households isn’t connected to a sewer system. We visit the rolling mountains of Letcher County, Kentucky. There, in the early 1900s, coal mining firms built company towns with little attention to long-term infrastructure. Decades later, local residents are dealing with the consequences. We hear from former coal miner Carroll Smith about his push in the 1990s to bring clean drinking water and safe wastewater disposal to communities across the county. And we learn where he ran into challenges.

    Guests:


    Upmanu Lall, Director of the Columbia Water Center at Columbia University

    Carroll Smith, former Judge Executive of Letcher County, Kentucky

    Allan Tuggle, retired miner

    Edna McBee, Millstone resident

    Mark Lewis, General Manager, Letcher County Water and Sewer District




    Photo: Britta Greene

    • 30 min
    Poison Pipes

    Poison Pipes

    Clean water can get contaminated on its way to your faucet. In America, more than 9 million lead service lines connect city water to individual homes (and apartments), leaving millions of people vulnerable to potentially harmful doses of lead. Retired EPA scientist — and Flint whistleblower — Miguel Del Toral shows us lead pipes unearthed from his property in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood and explains why they're no longer considered safe. And we talk to a Milwaukee father, who stumbled upon this lesson with his young son.

    → Read APM Reports’ investigation → Read Del Toral’s memorandum on Flint



    Guests:


    Miguel Del Toral, EPA scientist (retired)

    Rick Rabin, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

    Tory Lowe, Milwaukee activist (and father of four)

    Karen Baehler, scholar-in-residence at American University School of Public Affairs




    Photo: Lauren Rosenthal | APM Reports

    • 33 min
    Godzilla's Bathtub

    Godzilla's Bathtub

    Older American cities have a dirty problem — outdated sewer systems that use a single pipe to carry both sewage and stormwater to treatment facilities. As population growth and climate change have increased both sewage and stormwater, those pipes can get filled to capacity, and the untreated water sometimes ends up in waterways, where it wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. Chicago’s strategy for stopping the overflows has been to build massive reservoirs and a 109-mile-long system of tunnels hundreds of feet below ground. It’s a gargantuan holding tank for filthy water. Unfortunately, it may not be big enough.

    • 24 min
    Microbial Goo

    Microbial Goo

    Just how hard is it to keep wastewater out of our drinking water? Super hard. In this episode, we take a look at the lengths one great American city, Chicago, went to in order to keep the source of its drinking water clean. Reverse the flow of the river? Why not? Then we explore the origins of activated sludge — a century-old microbial goo that still cleans up our sewage today. We end with a scientist studying what a city’s wastewater can reveal about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    • 23 min
    Dirty Water

    Dirty Water

    Throughout human history, cities have grappled with how to keep excrement separate from drinking water. In the Middle Ages, gong farmers excavated human waste from city dwellers and took it to the countryside to be used as fertilizer. In the 19th century, cities grew so big, this wasn’t possible anymore. So excrement went into rivers like the Thames, which is where London, a city of 2 million people in 1850, got its drinking water. At the same time, cholera was killing tens of thousands of people. Nearly everyone thought cholera was transmitted through the air. But John Snow, a London physician, discovered dirty water was the cause.

    • 22 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
42 Ratings

42 Ratings

garbagedoctor ,

Great water program

Great series. Many years ago our group at the university of south florida developed a similar programs for political leaders in the Tampa Bay Area of florida. We followed the same format. As a environmental engineer I feel at home with your series.

PLSM62 ,

EVERYONE SHOULD HEAR THIS

Failing water/wastewater infrastructure is a literally DIRTY secret. As someone working in this space, I appreciate the message!

Jen wikki ,

This is relevant to all people

I’m increasingly interested in understanding the why behind big things to help influence the future. This is a perfect example of that.

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