Whether connected to a public sewer system or local septic, household drains and toilets are an endless source of confusion and myths. Unfortunately, many of these myths lead homeowners to introduce things into the sewer system that simply shouldn't be there. Here's a look at several of the most common misconceptions about sewer systems and the truth behind them. By keeping these things in mind, you can reduce the chances that your home will suffer from a significant sewer backup due to clogs or other damage.
My Sink Drains Are Separate From the Sewer Line
One of the biggest mistakes that many homeowners make is believing that their sewer line is connected to a different main line than the rest of the drains in the house. In fact, everything that goes down the drain or gets flushed in your house will all route through the same main drain into the city's sewer system.
If the Package Says Flushable, It's Safe to Flush
The consumer market has been saturated with various products with flushable labels, from wipes for toddlers to pre-moistened wipes targeted to adults from major bathroom tissue brands. Despite the bold "flushable" branding on these packages can be a bit misleading for the sewer system. Most city sewer systems are designed to handle bathroom tissue, but nothing else.
Bathroom tissue degrades much faster than these new flushable products, which leaves the flushable wipes to reach the sewer system screens intact, or nearly so. This causes clogs in the input screens of the sewer lines, which can ultimately cause your home's sewer lines to back up. The best rule of thumb to follow is not to put anything other than bathroom tissue into your toilet. Everything else should go in the trash. That goes for those flushable toilet bowl cleaners, too.
Food Scraps are Harmless in the Garbage Disposal
Although garbage disposals can be helpful for some small things, even shredded vegetables and other fibrous materials can be problematic in the drains that follow them. Some sewer lines are narrower than others, which puts the lines at risk of clogs from food waste. Instead of putting food in the disposal, create a compost bin. You can use the compost on your garden or donate it to the community garden.
You Can Pour Grease Down the Drain with Hot Water
Even if you follow it with hot water, grease can leave a residue on the inside walls of the pipes in your plumbing system. The coating will build up thicker with every amount of grease you pour down the drain. Even if the hot water keeps much of it from solidifying on the pipes in your house, it won't keep it from doing so further down the sewer lines. Grease buildups can cause blockages significant enough to lead to overflows in the sewer system.
Household Chemicals are Harmless to Sewers
Some household chemicals can damage the inner lining of your plumbing system, and can cause contamination problems in wastewater treatment systems. It's important to remember that these systems are handling waste from the entire neighborhood, and a concentration of these chemicals can be harmful to the employees of the treatment center. Additionally, some chemicals can't be filtered out as effectively through standard water treatment processes, so the water may still be contaminated. Reach out to your local environmental authority to find out the best way to dispose of your chemicals.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Old Medication is Flushing
Many people believe that flushing old medications is the safest disposal method. Unfortunately, this belief has led to water coming out of treatment plants with unsafe concentrations of narcotics and other medications because the treatment process doesn't eliminate them. The best way to get rid of old medications is to call your local pharmacy or health department about their take-back programs. If they don't have one, follow the disposal guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.
Hopefully, the information here has given you a clearer perspective on many common sewer system myths. Take the steps today to be proactive about protecting your local sewer system by avoiding these mistakes. Talk with a local sewer pump repair system specialist if you have any questions about how your household behavior is affecting the main sewer lines.