Frankly, I had no intention of returning to the sewers because one visit is plenty and I had been to see them in 1971. But while I was waiting for the bus at the Pont de l'Alma stop, I turned around and saw the Sewer Visit entrance right behind me, and as a dutiful member of Any Port in a Storm, I suddenly felt myself sucked in.
It's a relatively cheap visit at 4.30€ but after all, think of what you are going to see.
It is more spacious down there than a lot of people fear.
However, the sewer tunnels are authentic.
There are a few displays of sewer worker life.
One of the most important things about the Paris sewers is that "everything else" fits down there, too. It is a tremendous advantage for the city.
This was a display of the urban water cycle for people who don't already know (mostly school children).
At least half of the visitors were foreign, because this is the sort of visit that is apparently available in no other city in the world, so there is a certain attraction to it.
A lot of the equipment displayed is the equipment still used by the sanitation workers, sludge wagons, scouring balls, etc. I do not actually want to think about their jobs too much. I certainly hope they get good salaries.
Well Baron Haussmann and his sewer engineer Eugène Belgrand certainly had no nostalgia for keeping any "historical" sewers, but I'm sure that some really old tunnels must have been integrated into the system. However, since not much was done in Paris in terms of sewers between the Roman period and the cholera epidemic of 1832, I would imagine that the oldest tunnels still in service only date back to the mid 19th century. Back then, there were only 50 kilometres of sewers, compared to 2400 kilometres now. Each and every street of Paris has walkable sewer tunnels under it, which has turned out to be a fabulous advantage over the years for installing electrical cables, optical fibers and all sorts of other systems through the city.
What about the systems set up to supply water to the fountains in central Paris from Belleville by the Temple and some early Louis? I am thinking about the various "regards" in Belleville where these systems could be inspected. I believe that they eventually were used as sewers at the city end and fed into the Seine.
Man is not lost, only temporarily uncertain of his position
Each and every street of Paris has walkable sewer tunnels under it, which has turned out to be a fabulous advantage over the years for installing electrical cables, optical fibers and all sorts of other systems through the city.
I wish more cities (and suburban centers) in the US would do this. The ability to do infrastructure work without tearing up the entire road system would be a huge benefit.
After reading the article, I did a search on Google to see if there was any reference to grease or fat in other sewers, but there are just dozens and dozens of versions of the London story. I did already know that you are not supposed to pour oïl or fat down your drain at home, but since we urban dwellers have absolutely nothing else that we can do with it unless we save it in tubs in our flats, obviously most grease goes down the drain anyway.
If Paris has never had such a problem, I would have a few possible guesses on what has prevented the buildup, one of course being the possibility of "better maintenance." Those big scouring balls being pushed through the tunnels would probably prevent much buildup anywhere. Another possibility might be that Paris has a lot of extra water in its system since it has a dual distribution system -- one of potable water and one of non potable (but relatively clean) water that is used to wash the streets and water the parks. Anybody who has visited Paris knows how much water seems to be running in so many gutters constantly and then into the sewers. (Note: this is also the reason that Paris tyres have the shortest lifespan in the country -- they are constantly soaking in water.) The distance that the sewerage has to go before it reaches a treatment plant might also be a factor, but since I don't have the slightest idea how London compares to Paris on this point, I cannot really hazard a guess about this.