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Wastewater News

Is It Flushable?

Items that are commonly flushed down the toilet are creating blockages, jamming pumps, and causing overflows in the sewer system, leading to expensive repairs for homeowners and the District   Even products that are labeled as "biodegradable" or even "flush-able" are causing problems.  

So what are these objectionable culprits, you ask?   
According to the Water Environment Federation (WEF) none of the following should ever be flushed:

  • Baby Wipes and Diapers
  • Facial Tissues
  • Cotton Swabs and Dental Floss
  • Food Wrappers
  • Syringes
  • Cleaning Sponges and Disposable Toilet Brushes
  • Cat Litter or Aquarium Gravel
  • Feminine Hygiene Products or Contraceptives
  • Fats, Oil, and Grease from Cooking

For a demonstration that shows you first-hand how these items react in your sewer system, check out this awesome video from the City of Spokane Department of Wastewater Management.

 Only human waste and toilet paper should ever swirl its way to the wastewater treatment plant.   Put everything else in the trash can.  

As soon as you notice slow-running drains you should stop using your home's drainage fixtures and investigate.  If the problem is in your property’s sewer lines, call a plumber to clear the blockage before it gets bad enough to become a backup. 

Help Prevent Sewage Spills

Used water from our toilets, sinks, showers, and washing machines travel from our homes through a complex maze under the streets to a treatment plant, where bacteria and pollutants are removed before the water is sent back out onto our golf course and back into our aquifer. Along the way, a lot can go wrong, potentially spewing dirty wastewater into basements, community streets, and waterways.

Here's how you can help prevent sewage spills

In Your Home 

  • Minimize water use during the heavy rain season.
  • Wait to wash clothes or run the dishwasher until the rain stops to lessen the burden on the sanitary system.
  • Reduce water use by installing low-flow toilets and shower heads, and turn off the water when you shave or brush your teeth.
  • Dispose of household chemicals, expired medications, and automotive fluids properly – not down household drains or curbside storm drains. Anything you put down sinks and storm drains can end up in local creeks (Coyote, Crazy, and Putah Creeks) and eventually the Sacramento River, Bay or ocean.

FOG's (Fats,Oils,Grease)

  • Don’t put fats, oils, grease, paper towels (NOT even flushable wipes) down the drain. These substances clog both your plumbing and the sewer system, causing backups.
  • Pour cooled fats, oils, and grease into a can with a lid, or mix it with an absorbent material such as cat litter or coffee grounds and put it in the trash.
  • Wipe down greasy pans and dishes with a paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel in your kitchen scrap recycling or in the garbage.
  • Don’t use hot water or the garbage disposal to wash grease down the drain. Water cools through the pipes, causing the grease to harden into clogs further along in the sewer system.

On Your Property

  • Inspect your sewer cleanout. The cleanout typically is a small pipe, about 4 inches in diameter, used to access the lateral line for cleaning. Make sure the cap to the cleanout pipe is on and has not been damaged, and replace it if necessary to prevent rainwater from entering the sewer system. Call the District for a replacement cap if needed.
  • Have your household sewer line inspected and replaced if necessary (or urge your landlord to do so). A lateral line connects the pipes in your house to the main sewer pipes. Lateral lines are often old and frequently cause sewer backups from blockages or tree roots.
  • Avoid planting trees and shrubs near your household sewer line. Plant roots are one of the most common causes of lateral line problems.
  • Eliminate any connections between your storm sewer pipes and sanitary sewer pipes. Disconnect downspouts and sump pumps if they are connected to the sanitary sewer system. These connections cause spills and are illegal.
  • Consider installing a gray water system to capture and reuse nearly-clean water for your garden.