Water Professionals Continue to Grapple with Intensifying Strain on the Wastewater Treatment System
DURATION 4 minute read
Utility companies have urged customers for years to ignore the “flushable” labels on wipes and instead throw them in the trash. They’ve also communicated that fat, oil, and grease (FOG) should not be poured down the sink but rather disposed of in the garbage, yet both materials have been making their way to wastewater treatment plants and causing costly issues.
These problems are nothing news. Flushable wipes and FOG have been plaguing wastewater treatment facilities for decades. But for the last few years, water professionals have seen an alarming increase in the level of build-up at their plants.
Why You Should Never Flush Flushable Wipes
It’s widely marketed that flushable wipes are designed to disintegrate once we flush the toilet, but in reality, they don’t. Unlike toilet paper that breaks down in roughly 24 hours, wipes remain intact once they make their way down the drain.
These sanitary products have been found in drainpipes months after being flushed. Because they do not break down, they build upon one another and form a massive mound that can clog pipes and back up plumbing systems, which is costly to repair.
If wipes make it to a treatment plant, they become caught on the edge of lift station pumps. As wipes continue to collect on these pipes, they begin to bog down the treatment system, damage equipment, burn up pumps, and in some cases, cause the water treatment system to fail.
Though mixers can be added to help reduce wipes from clumping, too many wipes in a treatment system can cause raw sewage to back up into homes, which is never a pleasant experience. And when these materials combine with FOG, they create an expensive foe for wastewater treatment systems.
How Bad is it to Pour Grease Down the Drain?
Restaurants are equipped with grease traps to handle the cooking grease they generate, but households are typically not equipped with this key wastewater industry tool. And with more people cooking at home, more fat, oil, and grease (FOG) are building up in treatment systems across the Lone Star State.
FOG combines with flushable wipes as they make their way to a treatment facility. Once there, both materials will accumulate into a “greaseberg”, which is a large mound of non-biodegradable sanitary materials combined with FOG. This material can completely clog a sewer system and requires frequent jetting and chemical additives to break down.
Greasebergs can also cause major issues with lift stations and sewage pumps downstream. When the build-up reaches a wastewater treatment plant, it can block screens and filter systems, clog sludge pumps, and increase sludge volumes – all of which are costly to repair.
Addressing these issues often requires outside help from septic companies to clean and remove the massive build-up, which is not cheap. In some cases, a greaseberg can cause enough damage to require the replacement of lift and pump stations, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Experts continue to urge their communities to be conscious about what substances they contribute to the wastewater treatment system. Our team of wastewater design specialists and water district program managers is diligently working to ensure water utilities have the resources they need to operate efficiently. We have to skills and experience necessary to help prevent asset problems before they arise.
You can contact our experts to learn more about how we can help your plant continue operating smoothly. You can also visit our Water & Wastewater page to learn more about our services and check out related projects.