We all can make a difference by making sure that toilets are used as toilets – not trash cans.
What Not to Flush
Please read this list of items that must not be flushed. Flushing other materials can cause messy blockages and some materials can go right through the wastewater treatment facility and enter the local streams. Please dispose of items properly.
Remember the following catch phrase to keep flushable and disposable materials out of the sewer system. The three “Ps” – pee, poop and paper (toilet paper) – is all that should be flushed down the toilet. Nothing else goes in there.
Flushable wipes and other similar not-so-flushable products are causing problems for waste treatment plants. If the product does not specify that it is flushable, don’t.
Toilets are not garbage cans. This material should be going into the garbage can.
Among the other items frequently found stuck in sewers are condoms, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, cotton swabs, bandages, medicines, kitty litter — even food wastes and paint. These items were never intended to be disposed of by flushing.
Toilet systems were only intended to accommodate toilet paper and human waste. When the material gets into our treatment plant it gets tangled up in the screens. The plant has to stop the process, and operators have to remove the rags by hand. It takes time and takes people away from their assigned responsibilities. It is also a health and safety concern.
One North Carolina city attributed a 21,000-gallon New Year’s 2014 sewage spill to both grease and wipes in the system. In London, Kansas, a 15-ton, “bus-sized lump” consisting of grease and flushable wipes was discovered in the system.
Over the years, grease has created blockages in the sewer lines that result in sewer backups and overflows. Sewer backups and overflows cause residential property damage, environmental contamination, health hazards and expensive collection system repairs.
To minimize grease in the collection system, grease traps are required to be installed as integral parts of a food establishment’s waste water system. All establishments serving food including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, nursing homes, schools, churches, grocery stores, and hospitals are included. The Wisconsin Plumbing Code SPS 382 requires that all nonresidential establishments who prepare food must have a grease interceptor. Also, car washes, automotive repair shops, and industrial facilities are required to have a grease and oil interceptor in place. NR 211.10(c) State law prohibits “Solids or viscous pollutants in amounts which will cause or contribute to obstruction of the flow in sewers or other interference with the operations of the POTW.”
Their waste water passes down drainpipes that lead to the grease trap. The grease trap’s job is to slow the flow of water and allow it to cool inside the grease trap. As the water cools in the grease trap, fats and oils, being lighter than water, float to the top. The water flows through the outlet baffle and fats and oils are “trapped” inside the grease trap.
Maintain a Clean Grease Trap!
It is required under City Ordinance that all grease traps be pumped, “cleaned,” on a regular basis to ensure proper functioning. This will limit the amount of grease entering the sanitary sewer collection system. Poorly maintained grease traps allow grease to escape from the trap, and become hard and cling to the interior of the drain and sewer pipes. Over time, this build-up of fats and oils will cause clogs in sewer lines. These clogs could cause sewer back-ups into residential homes and manholes. Back-ups in manholes will cause overflows into the street and nearby storm drains.
This can be very costly to you if the blockage is caused by grease emanating from your establishment. The city may have YOU pay to have the problem remedied.
Be sure that when you have your trap serviced that the sample manhole is also serviced. Grease build-up in drains and sewer pipes can be very costly for any facility to fix.
For questions concerning grease trap inspections, call the City of Fennimore Waste Water Department at 608-822-6718.
What’s Wrong with Salt?
Each day, the Fennimore Wastewater Treatment plant receives about 600 pounds of salt from dissolved sodium chloride. That’s about 110 ton each year. These dissolved particles pass through our wastewater treatment plant to local streams, exposing Wisconsin’s freshwater animals and plants to danger.
As you may already know, freshwater organisms cannot tolerate high levels of dissolved solids such as chloride. Approximately 60% of the salt that we use and flush is the chloride ion. Scientists tested a variety of organisms and determined that a long-term exposure to chloride concentration of 395 mg/l is dangerous for the living organisms in the stream — a concentration equal to about half of a tablespoon of salt in five gallons of water. The wastewater that reaches our facility contains these higher concentrations, created from various sources such as water softening systems, industrial sources and winter ice control.
Why should we Change?
While it only costs 20 cents to add a pound of salt to water, it costs five dollars to remove it. Rather than adding costly treatment in order to continue protecting our freshwater life, we have other options.
Together, we can take small but helpful steps in order to reduce the amount of salt put into water by examining our current water practices. By understanding where this salt comes from, we can all identify and form habits that help maintain healthy waterways without sacrificing our well-being.
What Can We Do?
Look to Your Water Softener
Initial studies indicate that approximately 1,000 water softeners are tributary to Fennimore’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. The following steps can greatly decrease your water softener’s salt output:
- Optimize water softeners. It is found, on average, this can reduce salt use by 27%. Local water quality professionals provide this service.
- Replace older or inefficient softeners – when replacing a softener with high efficiency softeners, you can save up to 48% on the amount of salt used. Some existing models can be particularly wasteful on salt and water use. Timer based softeners, which regenerate after a certain time period vs. gallons used or hardness readings have not been allowed by Wisconsin’s plumbing code for over 15-years – if you have one, look into replacing it!
- If you’re in the market for a new water softener, look for a dual tank system and/or a softener that exceeds 4000 grains of hardness removed per pound of salt used. These are some of the most efficient models. Updating your system will not only reduce the amount of salt that flows to our plant, but it could additionally save you money on your operations. There are several steps you can take:
Modify Business/Industrial Practices
- Use the Brine Reclaim water process, which reduces salt use by at least 25% in many large scale water softening systems.
- Implement electrostatic precipitation descaling technologies, which, on chilled water systems, can allow the elimination of water softening and salt use.
- Practice plant water optimization procedures.
Adopt Water and Winter- Friendly Procedures – Be WI Salt Wise! Let’s work to protect our water resources by employing effective winter maintenance methods to avoid the over-use of road salt products. Remove the snow first, use the correct tools, prevent compaction, understand the size of the area you’re working with and most importantly, use the correct amount of salt. For more information on how you can help Wisconsin’s waters, visit WiSaltWise.com.
- Chlorides are an issue for all local waters, including groundwater, drinking water, lakes and rivers. The health of our waters needs to be considered along with Wisconsin residents’ desire to have dry roads, dry parking lots and dry sidewalks immediately after winter storm events.
- We are hoping to find more local companies that would like to take steps alongside us to reduce salt use.