Welcome To My Poop Plant: A Sewage Treatment Photo Tour

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m 1+ points - Newb
0
0

"I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak."

That is my signature on my comments here on the site. When Dave saw it, he emailed me to find out if it was true. Once I replied in the affirmative, he asked if I could write a little about where your gooshy brown babies go after you push the magic chrome lever on your Al Bundy Special Ferguson. So here goes.

I do in fact work at a poop plant: the Everett (Washington) Water Pollution Control Facility (EWPCF). Here's an aerial view from Google Maps.

The big highway to the west is Interstate 5, just north of the Snohomish River Bridge. The plant was first built in 1960 and has been expanded several times since then. Prior to the plant being built, sewage from the city was discharged directly into the Snohomish River and Port Gardner Bay. We are currently under construction for the latest improvement/expansion.

The aeration pond on the south end is 30 acres, the oxidation pond (the big one) is 135 acres, and the polishing pond on the north end is 27 acres. Total volume in all three ponds is about 1325 acre-feet (431,817,500 gallons), and the permitted treatment capacity for the pond system is 15.3 MGD (million gallons per day). My office is in the trailer at the SW corner of the oxidation pond.

If you zoom in to the four round tanks in the lower left corner of the first picture, you can see the other treatment train, the Trickling Filter, Solids Contact (TFSC) system:

The TFSC system is much more economical in land use, but costs more to operate and has fixed flow rates (8 or 16 MGD); so we need the lagoons for surge volume. Sometimes during storms we can peak at over 100 million gallons per day influent flow; without the surge volume we'd have to send untreated wastewater to the river, and no one wants that.

Let's follow your dookie through the system. We'll call him Sam. Sam's first stop is the screw pumps at the headworks, where he's lifted up because almost all the flow from here on is by gravity.

Under those covers are four big (~7 foot diameter) Archimedes screws that lift the raw sewage up to the bar screens.

The four bar screens are designed to take out the big pieces (larger than about 3/4"). This stuff is dropped onto a conveyor that drops it into a bin where dump trucks take it away to a landfill. The stuff can include hunks of wood, balls of grease, more trash and paper than you can imagine...

...and even the occasional critter.

After the bar screens, Sam flows to the grit chambers, where the heavy sand and grit is separated and goes into the hopper with the screenings. You don't want to see the inside of the hopper.

All this equipment used to be open to the sky, but we have covered it all to reduce the odor problems. From here on out, though, there are no covers. The pipes you see above the covers take the stinky air to a compost bed, where it is deodorized. From the grit chambers, the flow goes to the aeration cells, where mixers provide oxygen to the bacteria that do the real work. By providing the bugs with oxygen, they break down the organic material in Sam and his friends into compounds that are much less polluting.

When they have done their job, they die and sink to the bottom, where we dredge them up every couple of years, compost them, and send them off to a tree farm to grow two-by-fours.

While operating a poop plant is dirty and sometimes difficult work, the only reason that human operators are there is to keep the bugs happy, well-fed, and provided with plenty of oxygen. Well, except for the bugs that die with oxygen -- then the humans' job is to keep oxygen away.

By the way -- I am not now, nor have I ever been, a treatment plant operator; I deal with Sam and his friends far upstream in the collection system. But that's another story. Here are a couple of shots of the aeration cells:

As you can see in the first one, the local seagulls treat us like a buffet. After the aeration cells, the partially-treated water (in which Sam has long ago disintegrated into his component parts) flows under the road to the facultative oxidation pond -- the big lagoon. Facultative means that the bacteria living here can metabolize either aerobically or anaerobically. The water isn't mixed, so the top layers stay aerobic because of wind action and the bottom stays anaerobic; so the waste gets further broken down.

In this pond, most of the solids that haven't settled out in the aeration cells drop out; we'll dredge it someday, though it hasn't been dredged since it was built.

Not everything gets caught by the bar screens -- for slender things, it depends on the orientation of the object. For example, this critter managed to make it through:

And, for some reason, Poopettes seem to like to flush these:

We literally have tens of thousands of these beach whistles lying in the rip-rap around the lagoons. And tens of thousands more get screened out of the composted biosolids when we dredge the lagoons. Ladies, these aren't biodegradable and belong in the trashcan, not the toilet. The basics of what should get flushed distills down to this: if you haven't eaten it, or used it to wipe off something you've eaten, it goes in the trash. That also applies to the device that these applicators are designed to insert. Wrap 'em with a wad of Charmin if you are embarrassed by them, but please, please, please don't flush 'em.

After the oxidation pond, the waste flows to the polishing pond, where the smallest solids settle. From there it gets chlorinated to kill pathogens, dechlorinated, and then gets discharged to the Snohomish River, which is about where the wind line is in this picture.

That's the simple side. The TFSC is a more complex system. Currently the TFSC system takes its influent from the first aeration cell through a small bar screen and is pumped to the top of the trickling filters.

Up here, it goes through a set of distributor arms that go around using reaction, just like a garden sprinkler.

From here the wastewater trickles about twenty feet down through corrugated plastic media that has a heavy bacterial mat growing on it. The bacteria colony remains aerobic because air flows up through the media while the wastewater flows down. From the trickling filters, it flows to the aeration basins (the "solids contact" part of TFSC), where it mixes with return activated sludge prior to being aerated. This is where the majority of the bacterial action takes place -- in a conventional activated sludge plant, there are no trickling filters, and all the bugs' work is done here.

From the aeration basins, the wastewater flows to the secondary clarifiers, where the sludge settles to the bottom and the clean water flows out through the troughs called launders. The sludge is scraped off the bottom and part of it is pumped back to the head of the aeration basins (that's the return activated sludge -- so called because the bugs in it are hungry and ready to eat) while the rest is sent to the aeration lagoon to join with the other sludge that's already there awaiting dredging and composting before becoming tree food.

Here's another view of the launder that shows how clean the water is:

From here, the water is chlorinated and then pumped across town...

..to the Kimberly-Clark toilet paper plant (full-circle sorta thing), where it is used as non-contact cooling water before joining with their wastewater and being discharged to Port Gardner Bay -- about where the sailboat is in this photo, around three hundred feet deep. The steam rising in the background is the Kimberly-Clark plant.

That's the quick tour of the poop plant where I work. I've been doing my job for about twenty-five years now, fifteen with Everett; and I really do enjoy my work. In all that time my offices have all been at poop plants. And while there are occasional olfactory assaults, as we say in the business, "Smells like money to me."

139 Comments on "Welcome To My Poop Plant: A Sewage Treatment Photo Tour"

C Everett Poop's picture
j 1000+ points

Very informative and it reaffirmed my long held belief that women's brains are composed of 100% concrete. Flushing plastic down a toilet???????? Jesus H Christ...........

The Dumpster's picture
i 2000+ points

Wow! Most informative thing to appear on PR in a long time! Thanks for all this educational information. I might even let Little Dumpster read this story!

I find it highly appropriate that your facility is located in a place called "Everett." Named, I am sure, for the first poster on this thread.

You even have his picture in here, or was that a rotting pig carcass?

H. R. Poop-n-squirt's picture

For some reason, when I take a particularly big dump, I've always envisioned some guy whose job it is to stand by a big sewer pipe down at the treatment plant, and he's got a rake or something that he uses to push the used condoms off the screen or whatever, and when he seems my huge stinky log come by he starts crying.

Bunghole In the Jungle's picture
l 100+ points

SSpiffyPoo:

What an interestingly shitty career you have! I've driven past some sewage treatment plants and seen the "ponds", but never anything in depth such as your foray into the poo. Thanks for the informative report. And I wish I could defend poopettes in general over the plastic, but I can't. Unfortunately companies continue to make those lovely plastic beach whistles and stupid females continue to flush them.

CEP: Well--no--it's just too easy......

keeping the whack in tally-ho...
Fartuituos!
Serenshittipy!

PooperGal's picture
k 500+ points

Fantastic report and excellent writing (easy for the layperson to understand)! Technology has changed considerably in the past 20 years. I once dated a man who worked at a sewage treatment plant, and part of his job was to stir the pot. Really.

As for the plastic thingies, would you believe that the manufacturers print on the box that they are "flushable applicators"? I never flush anything that is non-poop related, but a lot of female types just don't know that the applicators are non-biodegradable.

Now, tell us about the Pampers and Huggies you all haul out of the system? Seems entire cities have had their systems crippled by poopy diapers in the sewer.


_______
PooperGal
"Searching for the Origin of the Feces"

PooperGal
"Searching for the Origin of the Feces"

Capt Craptacular's picture

AWESOME poop report i must say, very informative.

Thank you.

KeepOnCrappin's picture
k 500+ points

Damn, this brings back memories. When I was 6 i think I was really interesting in plumbing. I repaired my kitchen sink once and knew the meaning of PVC, as I stated elsewhere. I remember I requested a tour of a sewage treatment plant, and got it (I also toured a power plant-but that;s another story)

I remember those secondary clarifiers, and I always see them when I pass a PC plant.

Anerobic bateria are what smell bad. They make poop stink and you get cramps after excercise. Thats doo to the waste products they produce when at work. (Lactic acid in your muscles)

Agreed, very informative.

It's nice to know there are others who know what happens at a sewage plant, and now all PR.com knows.

"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

SamDamnit's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

I am very impressed by this story. I love the term "beach whistles ". I am also pleased that you used my name in this story. I consider it a great honor.

_______

Sir SamDamnit!
and the Knights of Poopsalot
http://www.myspace.com/saintcarnivean

SamDamnit!
The Emir of Crapistan

The Dumpster's picture
i 2000+ points

Sam, with your crack PoopReporting skills, would you consider donning a wetsuit, flushing yourself and waterproof camera through the system, and giving us the ultimate "insoder's" tour?

Rat Droppings's picture
l 100+ points

TD that wasn't a pig. It was one of my bretheren.

_______
"Rectum hell, killed em' both." Author Unknown

"Rectum hell, killed em' both." Author Unknown

The Dumpster's picture
i 2000+ points

Well, some of us wondered if Everett had given himself up for the cause.

BTW, are you related to Everett, by any chance?

Also, don't let Daphne see these pictures. It will upset her way too much.

SamDamnit's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

Dumpster, I was not brave enough to poop on the Emo's toilet, like I intended to. I don't think I could even doo SSpiffy's job, much less dive in to the tanks. However, I have read of poople that doo that job. Perhaps I will seek one out for an interview. Although, I ASSume that SSpiffy would have an easier time finding them.
_______

Sir SamDamnit!
and the Knights of Poopsalot
http://www.myspace.com/saintcarnivean

SamDamnit!
The Emir of Crapistan

C Everett Poop's picture
j 1000+ points

Everett, WA is the home of the mighty USS Abraham Lincoln so this turd factory might have indeed seen a few of my finest. It is only a coincidence that I chose CEP for a screen name.

CEP

The Dumpster's picture
i 2000+ points

No, Everett. It was Destiny.

SamDamnit's picture
Comment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

C. Everett, I am sure the brothels and klaverns of Everett saw many of your poops, but I am certain that there was some poo-etic justice in your choosing the screen name and the poop plant of a town bearing the same name, being featured on TPR.
_______

Sir SamDamnit!
and the Knights of Poopsalot
http://www.myspace.com/saintcarnivean

SamDamnit!
The Emir of Crapistan

SSpiffyPoo's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Don't get me started about Pampers and Huggies! Honest to Gods, I've seen the strangest things come out of sewers. How about T-shirts, Barbies (R), entire sheets. But my favorite of all time was the stoppage in a fairly large line (48" IIRC) at a previous City. We pulled 3 complete BICYCLES out of the sewer line. Worst was an animal shelter that had a puppy stoppage in their line. :(

I'll also be working on a story about my job, Sewer Cop. But that one will take a while, so don't hold your breath (unless you're getting hot boxed...)

On another note, I'll be racing my car at Portland International this weekend. If there are any PR folks who want to get in free as my crew, let me know.


------------------------------------------------------

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

Bunga Din's picture
j 1000+ points

SSpiffyPoo, this report was top notch. An insiders view of outsiders doo. Just out of curiosity do you drink city or bottled water?

ShitDump's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

From age 7 to 18 I lived next door to a neighborhood sewage plant.

The plant serviced twenty newer homes in my neighborhood out in the country. The other 10 houses were on septic tanks. The plant had an inlet and an aerator pump that kept the water moving. It would discharge into the creek that us kids used to play in and catch frogs in and swam in downstream.

I never saw anything other than clear water coming out but some days it would churn real hard and the grates covering the wells would be covered in shit soup. We could stand on top of the "wells" and look down into the muck. A couple times each year some guys would come in a big truck and pump out the solid waste. One particular asshole took the time to show my brother and I a whole pile of maxi-pads they fished out and told us to tell our mom not to flush them.

They put up a fence around the whole thing after the neighbor kid got interested and opened one unlocked well. His dog fell in and all hell broke loose (the dog was saved).

It's kind of funny that I can say I lived next door to a shit treatment plant. It wasn't THAT bad but sometimes a real smell would come over. My dad once took a home video of it and complained to the county commissioners. That would be super funny to find and post on here.

Jake Scwarz's picture

Question Re: this plant. I've driven past it many times. I've noticed three or four large windmills, one is visible in a photo above, each has five blades. I know that as far as power generating turbines, numbers of blades above three tend to produce less power and (excepting three) odd numbers of blades are difficult to arrange. What are these things? I've seen them turning... and as I've never found a way to get up to the plant - I did try - I have no clue.

SSpiffyPoo's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

City water for sure, I only drink bottled water in places I don't like the taste of the local tap (like Vegas.) We had some very forward-thinking management over the last few decades and own our entire watershed. It's undeveloped forest land; no one is allowed in it without a darned good reason. If you live along a river, think about how many people the water going into your water treatment plant has been through before it gets to your city. :) The water treatment plant is state-of-the-art (even though treatment other than screening and chlorination isn't required because it's so clean to start with) and if we put out the same quality water that Seattle sends to its customers, we'd be violating our water treatment permit.


_______
I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

daphne's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardSite AdminComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatore 6000+ points

Dude, I'm from near Lacy. You're almost a neighbor! What a small world. But I don't like the pictures of the dead rats. Those are so sad.


_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

Gaseous G's picture

Sadder still are pictures of live rats!

Great piece of work, Spiffy.

3flusher's picture
m 1+ points - Newb


_Thanks for the tour! When I walk on the shore of Lake Erie I have seen many "beach whistles" and always wondered why so many are there. I guess from boaters throwing them overboard.______
3flusher

3flusher

Hole Digger's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Mike Rowe on "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery Channel did an episode entirely on the insides of a sewer treatment plant. The original air time of this episode was August 30, 2005. The show title was Sludge Cleaner. There is also an episode called Sewer Inspecter; this episode aired on August 2, 2005. Mike Rowe is almost as cool as Adam and Jamie from Myth Busters.

PooperGal's picture
k 500+ points

Samdamnit, are you saying your father took a video of the plant to complain about the stink? I'd think that he'd want to catch a few whiffs in a bottle for the commission to sample with their noses.

I also liked the "beach whistle" concept. heh heh.

Sspiffy the Poop Patrol Cop has removed some mighty weird things from the system, but at least he hasn't retrieved any bodies...yet. Here in Boston, we've found body parts floating in the filter-trap at the mouth of the Charles River. When I worked at the Science Museum, which is over the water, right over the filter, they once pulled out a human arm.

And does anyone recall the X-Files episode with the sewer "leech man" creature composed of the various sewer contents including human DNA...?


_______
PooperGal
"Searching for the Origin of the Feces"

PooperGal
"Searching for the Origin of the Feces"

Poop Shooter's picture
k 500+ points

Great informative report SSpiffy!! I live in the country and have a normal septic system, so I don't have to wonder why my poo goes. When in the big city I will not wonder anymore.

I did meet a guy that sold those bugs you were talking about. He wouldn't sell me any for some reason.


_______
See what's happening on The Dumpster Debacle
Poop Shooter!

Poop Shooter!

SSpiffyPoo's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Regarding the fans; those are orchard fans that tree-fruit growers use to keep their crop from freezing. We use them in the winter to stir up the air when inversions set in to keep a large bubble of stinky air from settling over the plant. They have been very successful in reducing odor problems for the neighbors. When the wind is really blowing they freewheel, but it's not economical to try to get energy out of them.

We offer tours regularly. Lots of middle school groups. :) Look up the City on the internet and call to set one up.


_______
I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

KeepOnCrappin's picture
k 500+ points

Mythbusters and Dirty jobs are the only shows I watch in discovery channel.

Well, at least I'm not the only one to have toured a crap plant.

so you want to talk about shit pulled out of the water? Try the site of a group I volunteer for:
Friends of Little Rocky Run Trash Log

_______
"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

KeepOnCrappin's picture
k 500+ points

Dumpster, I was reading the Dumpster Debacle, and you mention "Kyrie" Doo you know how to pronounce that?

_______
"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

"KOC -- the Cool Crapper" - Rat Droppings

In The Bushes's picture
l 100+ points

Great poopreport. I have never really thought too much about where my poo goes, I'm embarassed to say. Thanks for the info.

daphne's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardSite AdminComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatore 6000+ points

Poopergal, Leech dude was one of my favorite X-Files ever.
_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

Shit monster's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

How many feet deep are the ponds or lagoons or whatever you call them?, and how deep is the secondary clarifier?

(insert ziggy boogy doog here)

SSpiffyPoo's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

The ponds are about 7 feet deep and IIRC, the secondaries are about 14 feet. I'll check tomorrow to be sure.


_______
I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

PINWORM's picture
l 100+ points

I sometimes have to drive by one of these plants in the Phoenix area, and the stink is enough to make you want to throw up when the wind is just right.

Surprisingly, just a mile downwind there are a bunch of office complexes, and I smell the stink as I pass them. I often wonder about the poor saps that have to work in those buildings...I bet they were cheap and their home corporate offices, stink free in another state, decided to save a buck by leasing space in these places. It adds a new dimension of hell for the cubicle monkey.

Jake Scwarz's picture

One more question: The plant in Renton, which I pass regularly, has always had one noticeable feature. Behind the plant are two big cylindrical stacks of (now very rusted) metal, perhaps 20 feet tall. These are, I'm told, methane burners, and when there is a lot of it one or the other (or very rarely both) have gigantic flames, perhaps twenty feet high/long, raging out of them. Recently, they rebuilt a lot of the plant and the tanks look a lot more open than they did... There's a road on a hillside behind it, giving a good view... and I haven't seen these in use since. Are they outdated, or do all plants have this?

SSpiffyPoo's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Pinworm, Is that the 23rd Avenue Plant? That's where I started my shitty career. :-)

Jake, Plants with digesters need some method of getting rid of the methane, most flare it off, some use it for running generators, boilers or blowers. We don't have digesters (yet) so it's not a problem for us.


_______
I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

I work at a poop plant, so I know whereof I speak.

SSpiffyPoo

GottaGoGirl's picture
i 2000+ points

Wow! Fantastic information; I've known vaguely what happened to poop, but the detail was facinating. Thanks!

P.S. I looked on my box of, uh, CARDBOARD applicator product, and they say "flushable"; they seem to come apart as soon as they get wet (the applicator, I mean).

I looked at a different brand, under the sink at work, with plastic applicators, and they don't mention flushing the plastic, either way. But I've always assumed that they had to go into the trash.

However, neither box makes any mention of whether or not to flush the actual used PRODUCT. Honestly, it has never occurred to me to RETRIEVE the things. And even in light of what you're saying, I'm not sure that I could ..... I JUST don't know about that.

AssBlaster2000's picture
PoopReport of the Year Awardj 1000+ points

Of course you can't flush tampons . . . they expand! You can't flush things that expand down the pipes!

Printing "You can't flush tampons" on the tampon box, to me, would be as obvious as the bags of frozen broccoli that I buy that say "Ingredients: Broccoli." Of course, some people need to be told.

You also can't flush condoms. That's another thing some people don't know. Geez. Who'da thunk that you can't flush LATEX!? Durrrrrr.

Shit monster's picture
m 1+ points - Newb


_______
Turd Terrorist

Jake, where the hell is Renton?

(insert ziggy boogy doog here)

ShitDump's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Flushing condoms is not cool? WTF, I always flush condoms. Keeps some greedy girl from digging it out of the trash and possibly inseminating herself as I've heard those horror stories. Sorry SSPiffy.

GottaGoGirl's picture
i 2000+ points

Maybe I'll switch over to using baby socks, as suggested at Hillbillyhousewife.com

Poop Shooter's picture
k 500+ points

Shitdump, I would hang out with a different variety of chicks if your worried they are going to steal your jizz juice.


_______
See what's happening on The Dumpster Debacle
Poop Shooter!

Poop Shooter!

daphne's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardSite AdminComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatore 6000+ points

Use your old condoms? You've got to be kidding me. Really? One would think the "freshness date" on the matter would be very, very short. And, I haven't even mentioned the possiblity of an STD.

Ew.

_______
.....hugging bunnies since 1969

.....hugging bunnies since 1969
www.daphneszoo.com

ganja fairy's picture

whats dumber than flushing the plastic tampon applicators down the toilet is that women use those things in the first place. theyre poisonous to women and their environments.

but its not just women's heads that are made of concrete.
why do we shit in the drinking water??

Rat Droppings's picture
l 100+ points

AB2K, I guess this means when I visit you I can't flush my frozen brocoli down your toilet???? Only my overnight maxi-pads, tampons, plastic applicators, and used condoms?
Let me sum it up logically; tampon=clogged toilet, clogged toilet=pissed off AB2K, Pissed off AB2K=tampon. Right??

_______
"Rectum hell, killed em' both." Author Unknown

"Rectum hell, killed em' both." Author Unknown

Shit monster's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Hey SSpiffyPoo, what exactly is a digester?


_______
Turd Terrorist

(insert ziggy boogy doog here)

AssBlaster2000's picture
PoopReport of the Year Awardj 1000+ points

Rat Droppings, next time I get pissed off, remind me to find a vagina to crawl into. Maybe that's what my problem is.

Poop Shooter's picture
k 500+ points

daphne wrote: ".....One would think the "freshness date" on the matter would be very, very short."

I once took a box of condoms back to the adult bookstore/ toyshop because they were out of date. I would have thrown them out, but I just bought them, and they were $25.00 for the 12-pack. I made a joke about it and the employees had to get the manager and everyone working in the store in on the deal. They were nice and gave me a box of fresh ones.

Come to think of it... that makes me kinda wierd!


_______
See what's happening on The Dumpster Debacle
Poop Shooter!

Poop Shooter!

AssBlaster2000's picture
PoopReport of the Year Awardj 1000+ points

Paying $25 for a 12-pack of condoms . . . that makes you freakin' weird, Poop Shooter.

What was so special about them anyway?

Poop Shooter's picture
k 500+ points

They were some special non-latex poly-propolyene super sheer thin erotic climatic make your head spin strawberry flavored bullshit something-or-others.

I do remember I liked them though. nothings better than flesh/flesh, but kids are damn expensive. So $25 for a roughly 2 month supply versus 25 years at bazillions of $$. That's cheap to me!


_______
See what's happening on The Dumpster Debacle
Poop Shooter!

Poop Shooter!

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