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We know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live in the sewer of Manhattan (in New York City). We know that those sewers handle the bodily waste of several million people. There is no possible way that the Turtles could completely avoid coming in contact with human waste while moving through the sewer tunnels. But have they at least isolated their lair from the main flow of sewage?

To put it bluntly, do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live in feces?

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    The smell would be awful, but perhaps they situated themselves next to a storm drain runoff so that the water was at least filtered somewhat. Either that or they lived in one of the two water tunnels somehow. See also
    – Phyneas
    Jul 28, 2015 at 5:44
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    @Phyneas - Even if the Turtles live in storm drains, there's also the issue of what happens when the actual sewers flood in a storm. It frequently backs up into the storm drains and flows out into the East River untreated. Every time that happened, the lair would be filled with poo.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 28, 2015 at 5:50
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    That sort of happened in at least one episode ... though they left out the poo :)
    – Phyneas
    Jul 28, 2015 at 5:55

3 Answers 3

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It seems not

Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles refer to residing in 'the sewers', it seems that this is not referring to the bodily waste sewerage system. As pointed out on the page for sewers on the TMNTPedia, the 'sewers' actually resemble more of the New York storm drain - also called a 'storm sewer' (possibly hence the term 'sewer').

As you can see in the below picture from the 1987 series, Splinters doesn't exactly look like he's surrounded by feces here:

Splinters in the 'sewer'

Here is an image of the New York Sewers. (Note: I'm going to post it as a link: for those of you who wish to see it, by all means click the link; I'm just not forcing everyone to look at this image which probably isn't the best just after a meal!)

By comparison, here is an image of the New York 'storm sewer'

New York 'storm sewer'

In comparing them, you will note the sewer seems to be a much larger area than the storm sewer. The area where Splinters is in the top-most image looks like the entrance point to the system. In the below image of the Old Croton Aqueduct in NYC, you can see there is a passageway off to the left - potentially an area such as this is where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made their abode.

picture with orange tones.  Man alone in a bright sewer

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"About 60% of New York City has a combined sewer system" - meaning most of New York's sewage and stormwater runoff goes down the same pipes (though that number is decreasing over time as they're trying to address that). https://www.nyc.gov/site/dep/water/combined-sewer-overflows.page

So yes, you can encounter human waste in those tunnels. Though hopefully it's been diluted by everything else...

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Unfortunately this doesn't answer the question if the turtles live in the 40% of storm-only drains, the 60% of combined drains, or the sewage-only sewers, which was the point of the question. Please don't post comments on other answers as answers; when you earn some reputation you'll be able to comment on other people's posts.
    – DavidW
    Dec 9, 2022 at 0:01
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    Anytime you've seen a picture or a video of a gross-ass sewer, it was worth filming as an oddity. It's really not that bad in a sewer. There is some poo, but it's diluted by like 100x with shower water and w/e else; not just what you watch swirl around in a toilet. How often does the train go by? - So often you don't even notice it. - When someone flushes a toilet on a stack that you're working on ... that kinda sucks, but otherwise... as long as it's rained recently enough, it's fine. We do have a saying, ".... then don't become a plumber."
    – Mazura
    Dec 14, 2022 at 4:29
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Yes.

In the 2023 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, we see April O'Neil make her way to the Turtles' lair in the sewers. She has to wait just outside their lair because Splinter is wary of humans. As she looks around the sewer, she is grossed out by what she sees: "a cockroach surfing on a turd", as she puts it.

Relevant dialogue (emphasis added):

Donatello: All right, April, we live just up there, but our dad, he doesn't really like humans.

[…]

Raphael: But just wait here, okay? We'll be back in a few.

April: And there's a cockroach surfing on a turd. Awesome. Good. Love that I'm looking at that.

April noticing the "cockroach surfing on a turd"

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