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 keep 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 24 hours. Therefore, be mindful of what you flush or dispose of down the drain, because it may be reaching the river before the day’s over. Treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals, wipes and other personal care products and many of the pollutants found in common household products.

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 these pollutants out of the river, we need your help to dispose of them properly and keep them out of our wastewater system.

Please see the helpful tips and tools below for more information about how you can help.

Prescription Disposal
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.

More information on what not to flush