We all know things go down drains that shouldn't. That's why there are large, bold signs on storm drains reminding us that the drain carries water to the ocean. But beyond the mundane misplacements, such as false teeth and mobile phones, there have been some truly remarkable items discovered during sewer cleaning.
Some of them even stretch the imagination for Americans, since American cities are considerably newer and more technologically advanced than cities in most other parts of the world. It's not that we don't have large, underground sewers or that we're unaccustomed to hearing of alligators prowling through them. But those sewers are out of public view, and we don't have the same kind of legacy infrastructure that still exists in Europe and parts of Asia.
But sewers are full of amazing discoveries. Here are five of the strangest types of items discovered by maintenance crews.
1. Live Animals
There have been thousands of live animals discovered by work crews in sewers around the world, but one of the more surprising finds was a fully grown cow discovered in the sewer at Gatehead, Scotland. Other animals discovered in sewers include sheep, pigs, and badgers. (As anybody who's watched a horror movie knows, there are also plenty of rodents living down there.)
Snakes deserves its own category because they tend to thrive in sewers, creating a wide variety of discoveries. In Miami in the 1950s, for example, there was a population boom of water moccasins in the sewers, and they started making their way into toilet bowls. Workers in US cities routinely find pythons, which were bought as pets and then allowed to escape. In Scotland, a six-foot Mexican Desert King Snake was found.
Some of the valuables discovered in sewers were worth something when they were lost. For example, workmen have found (literally) tons of jewelry, and watches and wedding rings are among the most common discoveries. Other items, such as rare coins, became valuable after they went down the drain.
4. Human Remains
Discovering human remains in sewers isn't just something that happens on Bones and CSI. It happens in real life as well. For example, police and sanitation crews have been pulling remains out of sewers in suburban Michigan, just in the last couple of weeks. Some are the remains of people who unwittingly fell into the sewer through unprotected drains. Others got there through more sinister means.
5. Living People
There are plenty of stories of children falling down wells, and occasionally they fall down sewer drains also. Although this is uncommon in the US, where sewer drains tend to be well protected, those protections aren't nearly as robust in developing nations. Recently, a Colombian boy fell into a sewer and was discovered the next day, still alive, by emergency crews.
Of course, as any sanitation worker will tell you, sewer cleaning is more about dealing with built up waste than it is about finding buried treasure or making great rescues. But once in a while something unusual does appear to break up the monotony.