What You Flush Matters
By Warren Tenney
Flushing the wrong items down the toilet can be costly. Such items can damage wastewater treatment equipment and cause a sewage overflow through manholes and on streets, all of which is an avoidable expense for the cities and for us the taxpayers. And frankly flushing the wrong items can create a gross mess for treatment plant workers.
Most of what is being flushed cannot be processed by wastewater systems. Cities depend on gravity to carry the wastewater that comes out of your home through a series of pipes and into the cities’ treatment plants. Where gravity does not work, motorized pumps give the system a boost. Clots often make it through the well-cleaned pipes, but they can jam the pumps inside the lift stations and at wastewater treatment plants. These clots can burn out expensive motors and plug industrial screens. Public workers must then re-route or temporarily stop the flow while they clean up and repair the damage.
So, what can be flushed? Well the list is short and simple – do not flush anything but human waste and toilet paper. It’s important to remember that the toilet is not a trash can, and things such as wipes, paper towels, facial tissue, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, cotton balls, band-aids, dental floss and condoms should never be flushed. They do not break down in the same fashion as toilet paper and cause clogs, as well as get tangled with everything else fighting to get through the pipes causing back-ups.
What is the main culprit that causes problems for your city’s wastewater treatment plant? Wipes of any kind, even if they are labeled flushable. Wipes are not immediately biodegradable and create problems for treatment plant workers. Regardless of what the packaging may say, please do NOT flush any type of wipes. Instead simply dispose of them in the trash.
There are also other items that must never be flushed. It is vital that all prescription and over-the-counter medications are disposed of safely. While flushing them down the toilet might seem like a safe way to dispose of expired medications, it is not. You are dumping chemicals into the water system and water treatment plants are not equipped to remove all those chemicals from the water. To ensure our wastewater remains safe and reliable please visit one of many convenient locations across the State to dispose of all medications.
Other chemicals such as unwanted household cleansers, topical solutions and disinfectants can also do harm and should not be poured down the toilet. Proper disposal of these also helps protect your health and the environment.
Wastewater is an important part of the Valley’s water portfolio. Technology allows the wastewater flowing out of homes and businesses to be screened, treated and reused, primarily to irrigate landscaping and fill underground aquifers for use in times of water shortages. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is cooled with treated wastewater supplied by five AMWUA cities.
It is important for cities to keep reclaiming wastewater at the lowest cost possible. That’s why cities ask for residents and businesses to help be mindful about what is flushed down their toilets. So please remember that your toilet is not a trash can and for the health of our cities let’s all flush responsibly.
For 50 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.
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