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Wastewater Pollution Prevention

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Wastewater, Pollution and SSOs

We use water for many things in our homes. We turn on the tap to brush our teeth, to fill a pot for cooking and for washing dishes and pots after a meal. But where does the water go after the drain? From our homes in Boston, used water travels through sewers to a wastewater treatment plant on Deer Island where the water is cleaned. Then the clean water is released into Boston Harbor miles away from shore.

Sometimes the sewer pipes inside or just outside our homes get clogged and may break. Then the sewer water backups or overflows into our basements or onto our lawns and driveways. When a discharge occurs from a blocked or broken sewer pipe, it is called a sanitary sewer overflow or SSO. There are many causes of SSOs. We can all help to prevent a sewer back up. First, let's be careful about what we pour down the drains and second, think about what we flush down our toilets.

  • A blocked or collapsed sewer lateral. A sewer lateral is the waste disposal pipe connecting our homes or businesses to the BWSC sewer main in the street.
  • Putting Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) down drains that create blockages in sewer lines or internal plumbing
  • Putting other things down the drain such as baby wipes or rags, that block sewer lines or internal plumbing
  • Blockages or breaks in the sewer lines or in the plumbing inside a building
  • Sometimes heavy rainfall, can cause an inflow of storm water into sewer lines

Potential Effects of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs)

SSOs can cause environmental and public health problems. SSOs that happen in streets can cause untreated sewage to go into the storm drain system and travel to local waterways. This can pollute surface waters, endanger aquatic life, and interfere with the enjoyment we get from our waterways and beaches. SSOs that happen inside buildings can damage the property and whatever is in the building. SSOs in homes or on the public way should be reported to BWSC. Call 617-989-7000. Clean up and repairs could be costly but reduce potential danger to our health. After the SSO or sewer backup is repaired, follow the Sewer Backup Clean Up Procedures below.

To report a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) or sewer backup, call BWSC's 24 Hour Emergency Service Line at 617-989-7000.

If there is a SSO in your home or business:

  • Avoid contact with sanitary flow
  • Report any SSO to BWSC
  • Use caution while cleaning following a backup or contact a cleaning contractor. See Cleanup Procedures after a Sewer Backup for more information.

After the cause of the sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) or sewer backup is fixed, we should remember the most important cleanup steps air out environment and save any valuable property. The longer sewage is allowed to stay on or in our property, the bigger chance for health problems to our tenants, merchandise and ourselves.

Building owners may decide to use a professional cleaning service. Search either online or in the phone book for "Water Damage," "Fire Restoration," or "Mold Abatement" to find cleaning companies. It is recommended that building owners check the company's references and determine that the company is insured.

Cleanup Procedures after a Sewer Backup
  1. Remove any excess water from the property by using pumps, wet vacs, or by mopping.
  2. Pump excess sewage back into the unobstructed sewer lateral or into a vacuum truck for removal. Do not pump sewage outside or into the catch basins in the street.
  3. Use dehumidifiers and active ventilation when available.
  4. Collect and dispose of all contaminated materials.
  5. Discard or clean all contaminated furniture and mattresses.
  6. Wash and disinfect affected areas with a solution of one-quarter cup household bleach to one gallon of water.

If you have had an SSO on your property, BWSC may be able to help with the cost of replacing the lateral pipes outside your home.

SEWER LATERAL FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

  • Make sure drains have a strainer to catch food scraps that we can put in the trash.
  • Only use garbage disposals for fruits, vegetables, and organic waste.
  • Keep food with FOG like meat, dairy or other cooked foods out of garbage disposals. BWSC has free lids for your FOG can. Go to the FOG page at www.bwsc.org or call Community Relations at (617) 989-7000.

Here's how to use the lids: Pour grease into a container and cover it. Put it in the freezer until you need it again. When the can is full, take off the lid. Then either cover the can with plastic or put it directly into the trash for regular pick-up. Now you have the lid to use over and over again!

Grease Lids

BWSC has free lids for your FOG can. Go to the FOG page at www.bwsc.org or call Community Relations at (617) 989-7000. Here’s how to use the lids: Pour grease into a container and cover it. Put it in the freezer until you need it again. When the can is full, take off the lid. Then either cover the can with plastic or put it directly into the trash for regular pick-up. Now you have the lid to use over and over again!

Wipes can cause blockages in the pipes. When they get big enough, clogs often cause pipes to crack, letting water from our sinks and toilets to enter homes and the environment.

All wipes should go into the trash even if they say they're flushable. The only thing that should ever be flushed down a toilet is toilet paper. It's simple, right? And we can save money on pipe repair bills and the hassle of broken pipes.

Wipes that should be thrown in the trash, and not flushed down the toilet, include:

  • Bathroom wipes
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Towelettes

For more information see our Keep Wipes Out of Pipes brochure in English or Spanish.

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