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WASTEWATER FAQs

What is wastewater?

 

Wastewater is “used” water, generated by homes, industry, schools and businesses. On the average, each person in the United States contributes 50 to 100 gallons of wastewater everyday. If you turn on your faucet and wash your hands, run the garbage disposal, take a shower, or flush the toilet, once it’s in the drainpipe, it becomes wastewater, which is also called “sewage”.

 

How does water get polluted?

 

The water you use doesn’t go away. Whatever goes down the drain ends up at the treatment plant. While the plant effectively removes settleable and organic materials, it is not designed to remove certain chemicals and metals. So, when toxic chemicals get dumped or rinsed down household drains, they pass through the system largely untreated and end up in the creeks and streams where they may threaten sensitive aquatic life. In addition, anything that goes down a storm drain goes directly to creeks and streams, eventually passing untreated into the rivers.

 

What is wastewater treatment?

 

Wastewater treatment is the process of cleaning used water so that it can be returned safely to your environment. Wastewater treatment is the last line of defense against water pollution, protecting public health and the aquatic organisms in the receiving water. Before modern treatment methods were instituted, wastewater went directly to streams and rivers, often the same place where people took baths, washed clothes, and got drinking water. Because of this, many people suffered from diseases, such as cholera, typhoid and diphtheria, caused by contaminated water.

 

Are toxic chemicals a problem?

 

Yes. Toxic chemicals present a couple of different problems. First, most treatment plants were not designed to remove toxics, and therefore these chemicals may pass untreated into the receiving water, or cause the resulting biosolids to be classified as “hazardous waste”, which significantly raises disposal costs. In addition, as the heart of the treatment process is the body of living microorganisms, these can be poisoned and rendered ineffective, adding to the deleterious impact of untreated wastewater on the environment. The Environmental Compliance Division enforces prohibitions against discharge of toxics by businesses; however, it is up to individual citizens to monitor what goes down each household drain.

 

How long does it take to clean the wastewater?

 

On the average, a drop of wastewater will spend about 15 hours traveling through the plant while undergoing treatment.