Inhabitat had the incredible opportunity to meet with Leif Percifield, the young inventor of the innovative Don’t Flush Me project. Don’t Flush Me is a system that raises awareness of sewage overflow by notifying its users when CSO is occurring. Percifield gave us a closer look at his handmade sewage overflow detection system, including some new prototypes for home use.
We met Percifield at Don’t Flush Me’s first sensor hub, on the Gowanus Canal. Located at the end of Bond and 4th Streets, the IOBY funded project holds a key sensor for determining the status of New York Waterways by monitoring both the water and the sewer. Percifield first thought of the idea when canoeing along the Gowanus with friends to create a map of the waterways for a Pratt project. Thought the use of a balloon camera and their own boat and oars, they group experienced particularly sewage-laden water, which spurred the idea to create an alert system to let residents know when the water is more polluted than usual. Users can receive a text message, phone call or email during CSOs, usually during excessive storms or if treatment plants fail and raw sewage is flooded into NYC’s waterways. The users can then decide to refrain from showering or using massive amounts of water for a few hours until the overflow subsides.
Don’t Flush Me’s sensors measure water temperature (which increase during CSOs) and transmit the data back to the hub. We also got a first view at a prototype lightbulb, which would set up in a user’s home to illuminate during a CSO. The first test bulb will be installed at nearby Proteus Gowanus Art Gallery. The light bulb idea was conceived to visualize the data, since we are inundated with texts and emails on a day to day basis.