I used to generally ignore, like the rest of you I’m sure, signs in almost every washroom that say “Don’t flush feminine hygiene products down the toilets.” And then I started working in the water/wastewater field, and realized that all wastewater travels into the municipal sewage system and eventually gets returned to our water sources. Look up your water treatment plant, it either is fed with groundwater (water found naturally below ground) or surface water (your local river or lake).
Simply put, what does this mean? It means that what we put on our lawns and flush down the toilet, we will eventually drink. Okay, so now I can tell that you are thinking about this differently!
It is in our best interest to keep our wastewater clean, as like I said before, we will eventually drink it. Yes, there are multiple filters and processes in both Wastewater Treatment Plants and Water Treatment Plants, that will filter out items to make it safe for us to drink. But these all cost money, and there are certain contaminants that cannot be filtered from water.
So what can I flush?
This part is more obvious – human waste and toilet paper, and that’s all folks!
And what should I not flush?
- Tampons / Applicators / Pads
- Diapers / Bathroom wipes
The first three items listed above will either cause clogging in your home or buildings plumbing system, which could become a major issue, or they will cause blockages in the municipal sewage system. This blockage in the sewage system will likely need a costly sewage line repair.
- Prescription Medications – By flushing prescription medications down the toilet, you potentially kill good and/or bad bacteria naturally found in the water, thus contaminating the groundwater. This has the potential to cause devastating effects on both wildlife and human drinking water downstream.
- Fats, Oils and Grease(FOG) – These should never be poured directly down your drains! When grease hits a drain, it cools and hardens, becoming pipe-clogging wax. If you operate, design or install commercial kitchens, car washes, restaurants or high-rise towers, there needs to be an interceptor designed as part of the buildings wastewater plumbing system to capture the fats, oils and grease before they enter our municipal wastewater systems.
For more details and a full list of Hazardous, Restricted, Prohibited Waste, please refer the City of Edmonton Drainage Bylaws at https://www.edmonton.ca/documents/C16200.pdf.
Summarized by Christina Herbers, P.Eng, LEED AP, Val Temp Sales