Professional Poo Diver
If you break life down into a series of activities, objectively, a lot of them don’t make sense. Like diving into a vat of raw sewage. Why would someone do that? To find out, we’re asking people doing weird things why, to get an insight into their world.
This is Brendan Walsh’s world. He runs a Melbourne company called East West Dive and Salvage, which basically involves diving in all sorts of no-air environments. One such environment includes sewage, so I caught up with Brendan to find out what necessitates this foul job, and why he does it.
VICE: Hi Brendan, why are you doing that?Brendan Walsh: I’m doing it because in Australia, we don’t process our sewerage with chemicals. We get bacteria to break down the solids by aerating it with big stirring machines, twenty-four hours a day. It’s a very aggressive environment and moving parts constantly break.

So what’s broken here?One of the motors. The motors are all in the ponds and there’s no other way to access them without getting in. And it’s completely black down there, so we have to do everything by feel. Sewage farms take thousands of photos of their site, before they fill up the ponds, so we look carefully at the photos before we get in. The diver then makes the repairs in the dark by talking to the guys above the surface. The dive suits are all connected via radio so we can provide directions in real time.
That all sounds like a design flaw. Shouldn’t there be an easier way?Ah, you’d think so, but then it gives me a job. Got to earn the ex-wife money somehow.
So what is it like when you’re down there?It’s completely black and you have to more walk than swim. There’s no smell though. All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out.
Do you ever get claustrophobic?No, I wouldn’t do it if I did. You need two years of training to become a diver and that weeds out anyone with claustrophobia. Also we can pipe music through the suits radio system. We’ll play the guys whatever they want to hear. It keeps them happy.
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Professional Poo Diver

If you break life down into a series of activities, objectively, a lot of them don’t make sense. Like diving into a vat of raw sewage. Why would someone do that? To find out, we’re asking people doing weird things why, to get an insight into their world.

This is Brendan Walsh’s world. He runs a Melbourne company called East West Dive and Salvage, which basically involves diving in all sorts of no-air environments. One such environment includes sewage, so I caught up with Brendan to find out what necessitates this foul job, and why he does it.

VICE: Hi Brendan, why are you doing that?
Brendan Walsh: I’m doing it because in Australia, we don’t process our sewerage with chemicals. We get bacteria to break down the solids by aerating it with big stirring machines, twenty-four hours a day. It’s a very aggressive environment and moving parts constantly break.

So what’s broken here?
One of the motors. The motors are all in the ponds and there’s no other way to access them without getting in. And it’s completely black down there, so we have to do everything by feel. Sewage farms take thousands of photos of their site, before they fill up the ponds, so we look carefully at the photos before we get in. The diver then makes the repairs in the dark by talking to the guys above the surface. The dive suits are all connected via radio so we can provide directions in real time.

That all sounds like a design flaw. Shouldn’t there be an easier way?
Ah, you’d think so, but then it gives me a job. Got to earn the ex-wife money somehow.

So what is it like when you’re down there?
It’s completely black and you have to more walk than swim. There’s no smell though. All your air is bottled, so it’s actually worse for the guys who have to decontaminate you when you get out.

Do you ever get claustrophobic?
No, I wouldn’t do it if I did. You need two years of training to become a diver and that weeds out anyone with claustrophobia. Also we can pipe music through the suits radio system. We’ll play the guys whatever they want to hear. It keeps them happy.

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Some Fire Fighters Got Covered in Shit

A helitack can draw 350 gallons of water into a tank and dump it on a bushfire. It can also dump the same amount of raw sewage on a team of 29 firefighters as they battle a blaze some 19 miles south of Port Macquarie on Australia’s east coast. The operation can then be repeated for three hours until everyone on the ground gets a good taste and two of the boys have to go to the hospital. This isn’t some weird hypothetical, it happened last Tuesday. To get the details, I caught up with a firefighter who was there. He wanted his name kept under wraps because he’s been getting enough shit from his friends already.
VICE: How are you feeling?Fireman: Pissed off. I mean, we got cleaned up, but I still can’t believe it happened.
Can you describe the situation?Yeah, we got a call that there was a fire burning out near Kew, just off the Pacific Highway. The crew got there just after 6:30 AM. It wasn’t a big fire, but it was dropping spot fires along the highway and that was obviously a problem for traffic. We started getting a fire line together while they brought in two mid-size helicopters to do water dumps on the actual front.
And when did you notice they weren’t dumping water?Well I didn’t notice anything. I was fighting a fire and that kept me occupied, but some of the other guys said the water was all discoloured and it had a real smelly back-spray. Then around 10 AM—which was three and half hours later, by the way—a council engineer called the commanders and said they’d been pumping water from the wrong pond. They thought they were using treated water but it was raw sewage.
How did they get the ponds mixed up?I don’t know. The idea is that they pump water from the nearest source, and in this case it was a sewage treatment plant. Apparently someone said that the pond was secondary water and it was safe, but it wasn’t. It was just a mistake is what I heard.
Did you get hit?Oh yeah, all over. You know, you’re working under the helicopters as they come over and they don’t have pinpoint accuracy. Every time they do a drop you get all this mist that blows everywhere. Plus you’re out there working, you’re not covering up and it gets all in your eyes and mouth, all up your nose. It’s fucked.
So what was the reaction among the crew when you guys found out it was sewage?We thought it was kind of funny. Or at least I did. But then they sent in the paramedics and they explained the health risks, like you can get Hep A and everyone was like fuck that. We had to wash in this chemical stuff and wear biohazard suits, and by then everyone was pissed off at being placed so unnecessarily at risk. One of the guys called the workers union and now they’re helping us settle it. We just work too hard for this kind of shit. And that’s not even a pun.
Haha, no, I guess not.Yeah, not when two of the guys were taken up to Port Macquarie hospital because they had open cuts that could have gotten infected. I’m not a doctor, but I know raw sewage in an open cut is bad news. The rest of us were just instructed to visit our doctors if we got sick.
Did you get sick?No, thankfully. I got home and had a really, really long shower and told my girlfriend about it. She was just as pissed off as we were. None of us got sick though… at least to my knowledge.
And what did your friends say about it?Most of them have been good. A few of them thought it was funny. I’ve got one buddy who thought it wasreally funny, but he’s nearly 30 and works at KFC.
So you still view some jobs as being worse?Oh yeah, fighting fires is usually great. This was a low point though.
For more shit, read these:
When Shit Happens 
Oh Shit! 
Lap That Shit Up 

Some Fire Fighters Got Covered in Shit

A helitack can draw 350 gallons of water into a tank and dump it on a bushfire. It can also dump the same amount of raw sewage on a team of 29 firefighters as they battle a blaze some 19 miles south of Port Macquarie on Australia’s east coast. The operation can then be repeated for three hours until everyone on the ground gets a good taste and two of the boys have to go to the hospital. This isn’t some weird hypothetical, it happened last Tuesday. To get the details, I caught up with a firefighter who was there. He wanted his name kept under wraps because he’s been getting enough shit from his friends already.

VICE: How are you feeling?
Fireman: Pissed off. I mean, we got cleaned up, but I still can’t believe it happened.

Can you describe the situation?
Yeah, we got a call that there was a fire burning out near Kew, just off the Pacific Highway. The crew got there just after 6:30 AM. It wasn’t a big fire, but it was dropping spot fires along the highway and that was obviously a problem for traffic. We started getting a fire line together while they brought in two mid-size helicopters to do water dumps on the actual front.

And when did you notice they weren’t dumping water?
Well I didn’t notice anything. I was fighting a fire and that kept me occupied, but some of the other guys said the water was all discoloured and it had a real smelly back-spray. Then around 10 AM—which was three and half hours later, by the way—a council engineer called the commanders and said they’d been pumping water from the wrong pond. They thought they were using treated water but it was raw sewage.

How did they get the ponds mixed up?
I don’t know. The idea is that they pump water from the nearest source, and in this case it was a sewage treatment plant. Apparently someone said that the pond was secondary water and it was safe, but it wasn’t. It was just a mistake is what I heard.

Did you get hit?
Oh yeah, all over. You know, you’re working under the helicopters as they come over and they don’t have pinpoint accuracy. Every time they do a drop you get all this mist that blows everywhere. Plus you’re out there working, you’re not covering up and it gets all in your eyes and mouth, all up your nose. It’s fucked.

So what was the reaction among the crew when you guys found out it was sewage?
We thought it was kind of funny. Or at least I did. But then they sent in the paramedics and they explained the health risks, like you can get Hep A and everyone was like fuck that. We had to wash in this chemical stuff and wear biohazard suits, and by then everyone was pissed off at being placed so unnecessarily at risk. One of the guys called the workers union and now they’re helping us settle it. We just work too hard for this kind of shit. And that’s not even a pun.

Haha, no, I guess not.
Yeah, not when two of the guys were taken up to Port Macquarie hospital because they had open cuts that could have gotten infected. I’m not a doctor, but I know raw sewage in an open cut is bad news. The rest of us were just instructed to visit our doctors if we got sick.

Did you get sick?
No, thankfully. I got home and had a really, really long shower and told my girlfriend about it. She was just as pissed off as we were. None of us got sick though… at least to my knowledge.

And what did your friends say about it?
Most of them have been good. A few of them thought it was funny. I’ve got one buddy who thought it wasreally funny, but he’s nearly 30 and works at KFC.

So you still view some jobs as being worse?
Oh yeah, fighting fires is usually great. This was a low point though.

For more shit, read these:

When Shit Happens 

Oh Shit! 

Lap That Shit Up