Did you know that “flushable wipes” aren’t really flushable?
What’s more, when wipes meet up with kitchen grease in the 141 miles of wastewater pipe managed by Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District, they can form “fatbergs” – large congealed lumps that block flows and cause headaches for maintenance crews as well as local residents and businesses. Efforts to thwart fatbergs and avoid lasting damage to area waters from contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and chloride will be highlighted by local sewage district experts during National Pollution Prevention Week, Sept. 18-24.
“Pollution prevention is critical to our environment, economy and quality of life,” said Michael Mucha, chief engineer and director of Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District. “It is extremely difficult and costly to remove pollutants such as chloride and other chemicals once they get into our waters. When everyone works together to keep them out, we all benefit from improved water quality and lower utility bills.”
Emily Jones, a pollution prevention specialist with the district, said simple changes by individuals can add up to measurable improvements in water quality. Among the easiest steps:
- Safely dispose of medications at a Safe Communities MedDrop collection box. Find a list of collection boxes here.
- Take household hazardous waste such as mercury devices, pesticides and gasoline to here.
- Reduce salt use to keep water fresh. Learn more about water softener efficiency here and reducing use of salt on sidewalks and roads at Wisconsin Saltwise Partnership.
- Keep trash out of the toilet. Visit here and search “flushables” to learn more about what can be safely flushed. Wipes and rags are not on the list.
- Sweep leaves out of the street to reduce phosphorus in the lakes. Information about community leaf pickups can be found by visiting here.
Area residents aged 12 and older are invited to learn more about preventing water pollution by signing up for a free public tour of the district’s Nine Spring Treatment Plant on Sept. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. Tour participants will experience a unique behind-the-scenes look at how the district transforms wastewater into reusable resources. To sign up for the tours, which start at the district’s Maintenance Facility, 1610 Moorland Road, visit here. Throughout the week, check out special pollution prevention tips on Facebook and Twitter, @madmetrosewer.
Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District’s operating permits depend on achieving water quality goals. To achieve these goals and keep rates low, the district works to prevent pollution through:
- The Yahara Watershed Improvement Network, or Yahara WINS, a group dedicated to reducing phosphorus from farms and urban areas. The strategy is known as adaptive management.
- Grants and rebates that encourage businesses, apartments and other large scale water users to reduce chloride entering the wastewater stream through softened water. The district also participates in the Wisconsin Saltwise Partnership to reduce municipal and residential use of salt on roads and sidewalks during winter.
- Education and outreach to improve conservation and understanding of the value of water.