Have you ever thought about how an airplane toilet works?
Or I didn’t, until I saw this recent story:
It appears that, as the Navy was building some of its newest ships, some brainiac designer said, “Hey, why don’t we try using toilets like they have on airplanes? You know, those vacuum toilet things?”
Vacuum toilets, according to Science.HowStuffWorks.com, “use an active vacuum instead of a passive siphon…When you flush, it opens a valve in the sewer line, and the vacuum in the line sucks the contents out of the bowl and into a tank…They can flush in any direction, including upward.”
“Yeah,” said the brainiac, “you can flush ‘em up, down and all around! We could change our motto to:
Apparently this sounded good to the Navy, so in went the vacuum toilets on the new ships.
And in went the crews to use the toilets.
But what went in the toilets…
Wasn’t coming out.
Or, as a March 2020 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report put it, there was an “unexpected and frequent clogging of the system” when too many crew members flushed simultaneously.
This in-but-no-out was occurring on the Navy’s two newest aircraft carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush.
Let’s pause for a moment and compare toilets to toilets.
The world’s largest commercial airplane is the Airbus A380-800, which can be configured to carry up to 835 passengers:
The plane has lots of vacuum toilets, and lots of passengers.
And plenty of flushing that happens simultaneously.
Airbus did the math, and figured out that this airplane with this many people and this many toilets needed this kind of pipes for the system to work, especially when some/all the toilets were flushed simultaneously.
And their system does work.
At least, unlike the Navy, I haven’t seen any headlines about backed-up Airbus toilets.
Now let’s talk about the two ships.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is the world’s largest aircraft carrier and carries about 4,500 people:
The USS George H. W. Bush, also an aircraft carrier, hosts about 3,500:
The Navy’s brainiac designers did not do the math, did not figure out that this ship with this many people and this many toilets needed this kind of pipes for the system to work, especially when some/all of the toilets were flushed simultaneously.
And the system does not work.
The new toilets on the new ships clog so frequently that the ships’ sewage systems must be cleaned periodically with specialized acids costing about $400,000 for each cleaning.
According to the Bloomberg article, quoting from the GAO report,
“The Navy isn’t sure the toilet systems on the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS George H. W. Bush can withstand the demand without failing frequently…the ‘unplanned maintenance action’ will be needed ‘for the entire service life of the ship.’”
Shelby Oakley, a GAO director, put it this way:
“The pipes are too narrow and when there are a bunch of sailors flushing the toilet at the same time, like in the morning, the [vacuum] suction doesn’t work.
“The Navy didn’t anticipate this problem.”
Ships like the Bush and Ford are predicted to have a service life of up to 50 years. Figure two ships, with toilets that fail “frequently,” and need this “unplanned maintenance action” at $400,000 each time, over that span of 50 years and…
That’s a lot of our taxpayer dollars.
Going, and I mean, literally going …
So that was March.
In April there was another report:
According to the GAO, this time the brainiacs were immigration officials who decided they needed a private protection facility for detainees in Tornillo, TX. This was, according to the article, in “May, when illegal crossings were up 140% over the previous year and administration officials were clamping down on granting bond to asylum seekers.”
“However,” the article continues, “by the time the facility opened in August, border crossings were down.”
So what did our government do?
They kept spending our tax dollars on it, of course.
This facility, built to hold 2,500 detainees, never held more than 68:
Before Customs and Border Protection (CBP) closed the facility in January, they’d spent $5.3 million for 650,000 meals that were never ordered, and $6.7 million on unnecessary private security guards for the facility.
Between August and November, the latter averaged out to each detainee being guarded by an average of eight officials – or, the article suggested, “one immigration officer, three contracted guards and four members of the Texas National Guard.”
What’s it all mean?
It means for once – inadvertently – back in February Trump was telling the truth.
Trump was speaking at a White House Business Session with governors from across the country about his administration’s proposed budget:
“We’re doing a lot of things that are very good including waste and fraud – tremendous waste and tremendous fraud. So, we’re doing that.”