Unveiling the Hidden Journey: From Flushing to Treatment - The Intricate World of Wastewater Disposal
As a kid, I had this overwhelming curiosity about where all the stuff that I flushed down the toilet goes to. In my childish imagination, I was thinking that all the poo, pee, and waste went down a big, deep pool where the smell was dreadfully awful and a sight no child would wish to see. The stuff of nightmares for a child’s imagination. Most adults still don’t have the faintest idea where all the wastewater goes to. We just assume that it goes down the pipe and is disposed of somewhere. Wastewater disposal is not that simple though. It goes through a very intricate and delicate process before it can be disposed of safely.
Now, all our waste products from the poo, pee, kitchen water wastes, and laundry and washing area wastewater go down our drain. This is what we call sewage. Technically, sewage should only contain human waste, water, and paper. Anything other than that should not go down the drain. So diapers, solid food scraps, and wet wipes should not be flushed down the drain even though it says flushable. This makes it easier to properly clean and clear the sewage before proper disposal can be done. As a fact, sewage comprises 99% wastewater and the other 1% is composed of chemicals, fats, solids, and other pollutants. Because of these, sewage is not safe to be disposed of right away in our natural water reservoirs without undergoing treatment and removal of any harmful contaminants.
Once this sewage is flushed down, it goes to our pipes. These pipes are what we call our sewer. The sewer pipes remove and collect all sewage from our property. They are interconnected with the other sewer pipes from other properties through the main sewer pipes. These main sewer pipes rely on gravity to transport the sewage down to the Sewage Treatment Plants. Sewage Treatment Plants are essential to clean out the sewage prior to it being disposed of properly. All sewage must go through the Sewage Treatment Plants.
Once sewage reaches the Treatment Plants, they undergo the Screening process in order to remove the solid objects. These can be toys, rocks, soil and fat residues. Large objects are disposed of in landfills together with rocks, soil, and gravel. Sewage then goes through the second process called Aeration and Sedimentation. In this stage, microorganisms are used to dissolve fat residues, food particles, human wastes and any contaminants in the water.
Once the water is fairly clean, they then go through the last stage called Disinfection. In this stage, the fairly clean water is treated with chemicals like chlorine or peroxide. Or they undergo Ozone or Ultraviolet treatment. This is to kill off all microorganisms and harmful pathogens from the water. Water that has undergone this final stage is called “reclaimed water”. This reclaimed water is now safe to return back to our natural water reservoirs like our lakes, rivers, and oceans.
So all of most must do our part in ensuring that we are only disposing of the correct stuff down our drains. Remember, if it’s not human waste, water or paper, do not flush it down.
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