Sewage is more than just filth. It’s evidence of our worst habits, everything from caffeine to cocaine, all ingested and flushed down the toilet. Now scientists are using wastewater to drug-test entire cities, and the results are sobering
Jörg Rieckermann snaps on a pair of purple rubber gloves, picks up a crowbar, and levers a manhole cover out of the way. “Here’s my access to the underworld,” Rieckermann, who speaks with a faint German accent, says as he hoists up a barrel-shaped robot suspended above a stream of raw sewage.