Pollution Prevention

All in a Day’s Work: From Your Home or Business to the River in 24 Hours

Be Sewer SmartYou play an important role in helping us protect the environment and keeping our rivers clean. Every day, eight to 12 million – yes, million! – gallons of wastewater are generated from around our area. The wastewater is safely collected, treated and discharged into the Columbia River within approximately 24 hours. Therefore, be mindful of the products you use and what you flush or dispose of down the drain, because it may be reaching the river before the day’s over. From the products you purchase to how you dispose of them, your choices impact what ends up in our water. Many of the common and emerging pollutants found in wastewater are introduced through products used around the home. Treatment plants are designed for human waste, they are not designed or can’t cost effectively remove things like medications, micro-beads, PFAS, wipes and other products. You can help by being informed and making safer choices, choosing products that work for you and are better for human health and the environment. You can start by checking out the information and resources below.
EPA Safer Choice

Have you ever wondered how the wastewater gets to the treatment plant and what path it takes from your neighborhood? The sewer system consists of more than 600 miles of sewer pipes and more than 70 pumping stations. Much of it is beneath the roads, streets and pathways you travel on every day. Depending upon where you live or work, the wastewater you produce will travel up to 20 miles in under eight hours before it reaches the treatment plant. Click here for wastewater pathways map. It takes about 12 hours for liquids to be treated to meet or exceed standards set by the State before they are safely discharged into the Columbia River. Solids take slightly longer to treat before they are trucked off-site to be used as nutrient-rich fertilizer at local farms. So, to keep unwanted pollutants out of the river, we need your help to make safer product choices, dispose of items properly, and keep pollutants out of our wastewater system.

The choices we make around the home can have a positive impact on your rates and helping keep our waterways healthy. There are many common household products including kitchenware, apparel, personal care products, detergents, food and food packaging and more that contain known and new pollutants that the treatment process can’t remove. The best way to keep these pollutants out of the environment is by keeping them out of the wastewater and out of the home.  To learn more about pollutants that can be introduced through the home check out the helpful information below:

Throughout the Home

  • Educate yourself about the products you use. Make a list and check how they rate for human and environmental health.
  • Choose safer and more environmentally friendly products. Find Safer Choice-Certified Products at: https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice.
  • Avoid products with “PFTE” or “FLOURO” ingredients or labeled as stain- and water-resistant whenever possible.

In the Bathroom

  • Flush toilet paper only. Everything else goes in the trash – even flushable wipes!
  • Don’t flush prescription drugs or other medications.
  • Choose safer products, free from plastic micro-beads, synthetic fragrances, parabens, or phthalates.

In the Kitchen

  • Learn what’s in your cleaning products.
  • Put fats, oils, grease and grit (F.O.G.G.) in the trash, never down the sink.
  • Choose stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic coated cookware.
  • Cook at lower temperatures if using older non-stick pans

In the Yard & Garage

  • Use pesticides carefully and as a last resort.
  • Properly dispose of pesticides and household hazardous waste.
  • Scoop, bag, and trash pet waste.
Freeze the Grease

Cooking oil, grease and fats poured down drains can build up in pipes and cause backups in your home or business. Sign up for a free Freeze the Grease kit today. More »

What Not to Flush

Wipes, diapers and many other household items should never be flushed down the toilet. Please flush only toilet tissue. More »

rag ball removed from a pump station

Pretreatment Coordinator dissecting a “rag ball” removed from a pump station.

Did You Know?

Ever wonder what people flush? As wastewater enters the treatment plant, it passes through screens to remove non-biodegradable material, including garbage. Each year, almost 200 TONS of material is removed at the plant and taken to the landfill. This is in addition to all of the garbage and debris that is removed from the collection system before it reaches the plant. This includes such common household items like wipes, paper towels, dental floss, diapers, candy wrappers, latex products, toys, and other trash. It is critical that this material is removed from the system because it can damage the equipment and it can cause blockages in the system. Not only is it harmful to the system, but it is also expensive. It is by far cheaper, safer and better for the environment to dispose of this material directly into the trash can.