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  • Kimberly Worsham

FLUSH Visits Newport Mansion's Inner Workings

Updated: Aug 25, 2019


Toilets for the fancy people

Over the holiday weekend, I visited Newport, RI and one of the famous mansions there from the early 20th century - The Breakers. It's an opulent palace right on the water that is full of richly beautify decorations; each room is designed with a different culture in mind.


But that's not why I was there.


The Breakers also offers a tour of the inner workings of the mansion - from the manual heating systems that used coal to the (you guessed it) piped water systems that can be used for bathing and flushing.


On the tour, we learned that the mansion had three separate water sources for the building:

(1) municipal piped water, which was deemed of poor water quality, hence needing additional sources and was used for flushing;

(2) rainwater-harvested water, which was from the roof and into a large container that was cleaned out); and, (3) ocean water, which was FROM THE SEA! It, of course, had salt in it, so it wasn't for drinking but was more for a "spa" bathing experience.


I asked what happened with the water once it was flushed down the drain (aka, raw sewage). We were told that it would go right back out into the sea through a pipe. That means...they definitely didn't swim in the ocean on their property. This has been reported as a much bigger problem last year when someone noticed that the aging pipes and output drains were still leaking sewage, causing the preservation society there to react quickly and address the plumbing problems.


This reminded me something I talk about in my classes a lot: we've never been very good at safely managing our waste in human history...but we can fix that now.