The District participates in numerous efforts to engage the public in understanding wastewater and the proper disposal of assorted materials that can impact the treatment facility. The efforts range from multi-organizational Peninsula-wide efforts to tours of the facility to a vigorous source control program aimed at educating businesses in Carmel on what should or should not go down the drains. All District employees are involved in education efforts, from dispensing information over the phone to the line crews in the field informing residents of the work we do.
Parasites passed by cats are killing sea otters, who contract encephalitis when the pathogen enters their brains. Toxoplasma gondii enters the ocean via outfalls and becomes concentrated in filter-feeding animals like mussels and crabs – a favorite of otters. Surveys showed that 76 percent of otters near urban outfalls harbored the parasite.
Cats become infected after eating wild animals and can shed millions of long-lived eggs even when they show no symptoms. The pathogen can survive wastewater treatment so all litter and feces should go in the trash (composting does not kill parasite eggs). Be sure to pick up feces outside too as pathogens also enter the ocean via run-off.
Protect sea otters – don’t flush kitty litter down the toilet. A parasite carried by cats is entering the ocean via storm drains and outfalls, causing disease in this already threatened species.
Like kitty liter and all flushable products, the eggshells, coffee grounds and other refuse from in-sink disposals have to be removed from wastewater before biological treatment. It settles to the bottom of our primary clarifier and then we pump the sludge to a heated tank where it is digested, dewatered, then trucked to the Central Valley as fertilizer – a very energy-and fuel-intensive process. Smaller food particles that do not settle out in our clarifier also use more energy because it’s difficult for our microorganisms to digest them. More microbes working harder need more oxygen which means more energy cost to run the blowers that aerate our tanks. Please compost kitchen scraps or put them in the trash.Like kitty liter and all flushable products, the eggshells, coffee grounds and other refuse from in-sink disposals have to be removed from wastewater before biological treatment. It settles to the bottom of our primary clarifier and then we pump the sludge to a heated tank where it is digested, dewatered, then trucked to the Central Valley as fertilizer – a very energy-and fuel-intensive process. Smaller food particles that do not settle out in our clarifier also use more energy because it’s difficult for our microorganisms to digest them. More microbes working harder need more oxygen which means more energy cost to run the blowers that aerate our tanks. Please compost kitchen scraps or put them in the trash.
Baby wipes, tampons, kitty litter, facial towelettes – even a toilet brush – are now being marketed as flushable. While many of these products are labeled “biodegradeable” they do not break down in the sewer system and many are notorious for catching on obstructions and causing costly clogs and sewer overflows. For example, while toilet paper breaks down immediately, independent tests show that wipes change very little even after an hour of continuous flushing action. Moistened toilet tissue can be used as an alternative to wipes and does not contain potentially irritating chemicals such as fragrances.
If flushables do make it to the plant they must be screened out at our headworks and then trucked to the landfill, which is more costly than putting them in the trash in the first place. Also, some never make it to screening because they get stuck in machinery. Twice a week two employees have to dismantle our main influent pumps to remove wipes and other debris, a process that takes six to eight hours. Agencies are seeing increasing problems from flushables, something we all pay for long after manufactures make their profit.
After testing the disintegration rate of flushable wipes, Consumer Reports advised readers to dispose of them in the trash.
Birth control, antidepressants, anticoagulants, ibuprofen, lotions, sunscreens, antibacterials…all these and more are showing up in our water supply.
The U.S. Geological Survey sampled 139 rivers and streams recently and found traces of hundreds of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Half the samples contained antibiotics, raising concern about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Other studies have found that estrogen is causing sexual abnormalities in fish, and steroids are disrupting endocrine systems in aquatic animals. In the ocean, filter-feeders like clams and mussels concentrate substances in their tissues which can poison other animals in the food chain such as sea otters. Disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products should be disposed of in the trash – not down the toilet.
Wastewater treatment plants do not remove all medications or toxins. Treatment plants are designed to remove solids, bacteria and pathogens only – disolved medicines, household chemicals and toxins end up in waterways and the ocean. The effects of long-term exposure to PPCPs (Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products) on wildlife and people is an emerging area of research. Studies on which substances are most harmful and which biodegrade or persist in the environment will help us develop methods to remove PPCPs from wastewater.
To educate the public, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmaceutical Association joined forces in a consumer outreach campaign, and the White House Office of Drug Control Policy also issued procedures. Proper disposal becomes even more crucial when you consider that a large percentage of oral medications pass through the body and end up in wastewater treatment plants anyway.
One of the requirements of the District’s Waste Discharge Permit is that it conduct a public education program to promote the proper disposal of grease and fats. The District has joined with other local agencies to conduct such an educational program. Other participants include the cities of Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Salinas, along with Seaside County Sanitation District, Marina Coast Water District, Castroville Community Services District, County of Monterey, Pebble Beach Community Services District, and California American Water.
Outreach efforts include television, print, and internet postings on such media as Facebook and www.ClogBusters.org. Additionally Carmel Area Wastewater District along with Pebble Beach Community Services District participates in advertisement in the local newspaper, The Carmel Pine Cone.
Recycling of biosolids improves soil quality and crop health and increases crop yields.
The ability to absorb and store moisture is improved by the use of biosolids, reducing irrigation needs and providing natural drought resistance to soil.
As opposed to the production of inorganic fertilizers, biosolids sequester carbon in the soil and thereby reduce green house gases (GHG) emissions and energy consumption.
Deforested areas, open mines and ravaged land can be helped with the use of biosolids.
Biosolids when treated for use as a supplemental fuel source help decrease the use of coal. Anaerobic digestion, used in treating almost all biosolids produces methane which in turn is used as a power source for treatment plant operations. Excess power can be also sold to the grid.
Biosolids used at landfills as alternative daily or final cover reduce the use of clean soil and other valuable materials.
Biosolids are nutrient rich natural by-products of wastewater treatment. They are highly processed and analyzed to ensure their safety. Biosolids are generally used in one of four different forms: a rich moist solid, dried pellet, liquid, or compost. Biosolids are typically recycled as a soil amendment, but may also be used as a daily or final cover at landfills. They may also be used as an alternative energy source.
There are two classes of biosolids: Class A which contain less than detectable levels of pathogens and Class B which contain low levels of pathogens and are also safe to use in land application. Strict regulatory safeguards and rigorous treatment and management practices are used with both type A and B biosolids. Sunlight, drying and other natural processes cause pathogens to die-off rapidly when applied to soil. Federal and state standards for nine regulated pollutants must be met for land applied biosolids. All biosolids in California virtually fall below the risk based “high quality” limits for all pollutants. Strict pretreatment requirements were installed in the 1980’s which regulate what industries can discharge to wastewater treatment plants. In 2009, over 665,000 dry tons of biosolids were generated by Californians most of which became Class A biosolids.
The District is participating in a countywide effort to place pharmaceutical drop boxes at local law enforcement agencies to encourage the proper disposal of unused drugs. On August 3, 2010 the first meeting was held to discuss ways to reduce the introduction of unwanted pharmaceutical products into the watershed. Attendees at the meeting included California American Water, Monterey County Environmental Health, Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, Monterey Regional Waste Management District, and the Sustainability Academy in Pacific Grove.
CAWD is a participant in this meeting because we have an interest in reducing the number of harmful pollutants that enter the wastewater stream. The District has made an ongoing effort to educate its ratepayers on alternatives to flushing medication and toiletries. Other agencies around the Peninsula have a similar interest and this meeting was to begin the process of joining forces on this issue and attempting to arrive at a solution.