Low Wear And Tear Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing

We ran into an unanticipated complication of the Covid epidemic last week.

You may have heard that cars are engineered to operate more efficiently at highway speeds because engines get hot enough for a long enough period to burn off impurities, etc. (Though certainly hybrids are well on the way to turning that situation around.)

Well apparently there is something similar at work with septic systems.

A combination of smaller audiences; new, low water use toilets; and the flushing of supposedly “disposable” wipes over the last year meant there was not enough water flow through the pipes to keep things clear. When one thing snagged and came to rest, there was insufficient pressure to ensure the next things through passed by.

And lest you think this is a problem experienced by older, historic buildings, the issue was exacerbated by plumbing installed during a renovation completed three years ago. As the guys who came to address the issue said, it was up to code but the people who installed it never had to service their own work.

My suspicion is that as many venues gear up to to return to capacity they will find that the low demands placed on their infrastructure during the last year hasn’t necessarily forestalled degradation and, in fact, may have resulted in new problems.

We were fortunate in that we were sensitive to some early warning signs and took some action to investigate, otherwise things may have backed up at the next large capacity event. Folks would do well to be a little paranoid about unfamiliar, but seemingly minor sights, smells and sounds as they prepare for the return of audiences. It may pay to take extra time to examine equipment and technology, especially if you assume there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it after so much inactivity.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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