Wastewater Best Management Practices for Home
Household waste can pollute wastewater and harm aquatic animals in the process. Follow these guidelines to keep our waterways free of excess pollutants.
The Water Environment Federation compiled a chart on general guidelines to show how to dispose of household waste and contribute to a sustainable clean environment.
Protect Our Water from Pharmaceuticals
You can help keep water clean by simply not flushing unused medication down the toilet. Controlling what goes down the drain is the easiest and most effective way to protect the environment. Following product recommendations for use and disposal and decreasing use when possible are also ways to help keep our drains drug-free.
Every day, the average adult uses nine personal care products that contain 126 unique compounds that could end up in our water. In addition to traces of products like shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, and cosmetics, minute amounts of prescription and over-the-counter drugs also make their way into water. They should be limited or prevented from entering our environment.
Due to our increased use of these products and great analytical sensitivity, very tiny amounts of compounds and drugs can be detected in conventional treatment plant outflow and end up in creeks, streams, and rivers. While there is no evidence these traces pose a risk to human health, scientists can sometimes find interference with aquatic organisms, and studies continue. Meanwhile, it’s prudent to control what we put into water, and everyone’s help is important.
Drop the Drugs Prescription Disposal Program
Unsecured prescription medications left in your home could be susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Water contamination due to prescription medications being flushed down the toilet or drains creates significant threats for our environment.
You may dispose of pills, liquids, and medicine for confidential incineration at the following locations:
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department
250 Hackett Rd, Modesto, CA 95358
7018 Pine St., Hughson, CA 95326
33 S. Del Puerto Ave., Patterson, CA 95363
6727 Third St., Riverbank, CA 95367
320 E St., Waterford, CA 95386
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is strongly urging the use of safer surfactants (detergents). Safer surfactants break down quickly to nonpolluting compounds and help protect aquatic life in both fresh and salt water. Nonylphenol ethoxylates, commonly referred to as NPEs, are an example of a surfactant class that does not meet the definition of a safer surfactant.
NPEs are used extensively in the U.S. (estimates of U.S. consumption reach 370 million pounds/year) because of their excellent surfactant properties, meaning it allows the chemicals to penetrate and absorb solids, dirt and oils. They are used in soaps, industrial laundry detergents, degreasers, cleaners, dry cleaning aids, indoor pesticides, cosmetics, paints and coatings, dust control agents, emulsifiers and adhesives, to name a few.
NPE enters the aquatic environment through wastewater treatment effluent discharges into the rivers. These cleaning agents are used in homes and industries across America, where wastewater from washing clothes and cleaning goes down the drain and into a sewer. Most of the time, this water is then transported to a wastewater treatment plant, where it undergoes treatment before it is discharged into our waterways. Unfortunately, wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to treat all of the chemicals that flow into sewers – most plants are unable to fully degrade NPEs. As a result, aquatic organisms are exposed to NPE daily as some of these chemical compounds pass through wastewater treatment plants and enter our waterways.
NPEs take longer to degrade than any other cleaning agent. Their persistence in the aquatic ecosystem increases the amount of time organisms are exposed to these toxic chemicals. NPEs are the only high-volume cleaning agents that become more toxic as they degrade. Even at levels often found in America’s waterways, NPEs may hinder the reproduction, growth, and survival of organisms. Extensive research indicates that NPE disrupts the endocrine system and interferes with the hormones of fish and shellfish. Exposure to NPE causes organisms to develop both male and female sex organs, increases mortality and damage to the liver and kidney, decreases testicular growth and sperm counts in male fish, and disrupts normal male to female sex-rations, metabolism, development, growth and reproduction.
In addition, NPE that sticks to sewage sludge can enter the terrestrial environment by agricultural spreading. Large quantities of wastewater treatment plant sludge are spread on agricultural land as fertilizer for crops. Although this NPE will usually stick to soil, there is potential for it to leach into groundwater and potentially contaminate drinking water supplies.
The EPA’s Design for the Environment Program has identified safer alternative surfactants through partnerships with industry and environmental advocates. These safer alternatives are comparable in cost and are readily available. The EPA can help you find safer surfactants.
If you have any questions, please contact the City of Modesto Environmental Compliance Section at (209) 577-6377.
Many personal hygiene wipes, baby wipes, and cleaning products are marketed as being “flushable”. Despite the confusing and misleading labels, you should never flush “flushable” or “disposable” products.
These products do not break down as they move through the sewer system and can cause blockages in your home sewer lines, resulting in the backup of sewage into the home. They can also cause blockages in the City’s sewer pipes and pumps causing sewer overflows, costly cleanup and repairs and extensive environmental damage.
The only things that should be flushed are human waste and toilet paper. Do not flush items such as disinfecting wipes, paper towels, baby wipes, towelettes, and mop refills. These items should be placed in the trash.