We saw this article from The New York Times that explains why many common household items are not meant to be flushed down the toilet. So, we asked our licensed wastewater operator Tom Glendenning for his thoughts on the matter. He uses the analogy that wastewater treatment plants are like a “mechanical extension of the human body.”
The treatment plant's function is to break down proteins, carbohydrates, sugars and ammonia that are flushed down the toilet. This is accomplished by multiple treatment unit processes that provide flow, dissolved oxygen, and the development of cellular micro-organisms, which use those items as "food," just like the human body digests its food.
"As these individuals [take] ... my treatment plant tour, some get uncomfortable with these details, in which I respond, 'It’s really no big deal. You ate it the first time,'" he said.
Tom’s response to things that should not be flushed: “If you can’t eat it, don’t flush it!”
The items the article references stem around things that are extremely slow to biodegrade, or are non-biodegradable within most wastewater treatment facilities.
"I could go on and on of the strange things that I have found that have magically created their pathway into municipal wastewater treatment systems," Tom said. "That will have to be another story for those who can handle it!"
Tom Glendenning has more than 35 years of experience in operations, management,
and maintenance of water, sewer, storm utilities, and engineering and project management.
Tom is a leader who also specializes in planning, designing, permitting, and construction
management and administration of water and wastewater treatment facilities.