You have questions about wastewater treatment, and we have all the answers. Don’t see your question below? Message us on Facebook and we can post a response to your question.
Q: What are the sources of wastewater?
A: The water that comes to our plant comes from two main sources:
- Homes, which typically includes human and household wastes from toilets, sinks, baths and drains.
- Industry, schools and businesses which also include wastes from drains but also includes chemicals and other wastes from food-service operations, shopping centers, etc.
Q: How do treatment plants protect our water?
A: Wastewater treatment is actually one of the most environmentally beneficial public utilities. Wastewater treatment plants remove solids (everything from rags and sticks, to sand and smaller particles), reduce organic matter and pollutants, and also restore oxygen to support life in the waterways. At the South Fort Collins Sanitation District treatment plant, we utilize a process that mimics the natural process in lakes and streams, allowing us to reduce the amount of chemicals we use to “clean the water.” We provide an environment for naturally occurring bacteria to thrive so they can break down the waste products and convert it into CO2 and water, thus leaving clean water to return to the environment.
Q: How does the treatment plant work?
A: Wastewater treatment consists of a series of physical, chemical and biological processes that eliminate pollutants from water. There are two main steps: primary treatment and secondary treatment. The primary treatment uses screens and filters to remove solids and other biologicals that won’t break down during the rest of the treatment process. The secondary treatment completes the process and removes pollutants through a process that mimics what happens in nature. We also disinfect the water with UV light to remove any remaining contaminants. After tests are run to ensure the treated water meets all state and federal standards, we return the water to nearby waterways. You can learn more about the process with this video.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: The most important thing you can do is be aware of what you flush and put down the drain. When in doubt, throw it out. Here are a few quick tips to keep things flowing:
- Only flush the three p’s: pee, poo and (toilet) paper.
- Don’t pour solvents, pesticides, paint thinners, engine oil, or household cleaning products with hazardous chemicals down the drain or into a storm sewer. Take them to a recycling center or hazardous waste collection site.
- Keep FOG (fats, oils and grease) out of your drains. These products don’t break down, even after running your garbage disposal.
For more information visit about what not to flush visit, https://fclwd.com/wastewater/about-us/do-not-flush/.
Q: Why does the area around the plant smell sometimes?
A: It’s actually not us! Our treatment process at the plant is relatively odor-free because we use a completely aerobic process (a biological process that uses oxygen to break down contaminants). The smell you may be experiencing near the plant is coming from Duck Lake. Please note, we do not discharge into this lake.
The lake goes through eutrophication every year, a process that leads to oxygen depletion in the water and promotes excessive algae and plant growth – this is commonly known as an algae bloom. The algae bloom results in a foul odor that can, unfortunately, last for weeks.
We have worked with the City of Fort Collins and Larimer Country to help implement solutions to hopefully debunk the funk.
Q: What kind of bags can you put dog poo in, to flush down the toilet?
A: Unfortunately, none of them. There are a few “flushable” doggy bags on the market, but similarly to “flushable” wipes they are not suitable to go down the drain and can result in clogs for you, as well as at the treatment plant. It’s best to toss your bags in the trash for disposal, or for a more environmentally friendly method start a compost heap.
Q: Who gets the water downstream after being treated?
A: Treated water is disinfected using ultra-violet light that leaves no byproducts, tested to ensure it meets or exceeds all state and federal requirements, and then deposited into Fossil Creek Reservoir. Water from Fossil Creek Reservoir Is then released to the Poudre River for communities downstream to have for their beneficial use.
Q: Can we retrieve personal items that were flushed by mistake?
A: Most likely no. It is possible the item is still in your toilet trap, which you can check by draining and removing your toilet. But if it has left your system it’s hard to say where in our system it is (did you know we have over 400 miles of collection lines?). We do sometimes find items at the plant, but they’re often not identifiable (and you may not want them back anymore…).
Q: Who is responsible for fixing a sewer back up in my home?
A: While our team works diligently to monitor and maintain all 400 miles of our collection lines in order to prevent clogs and backups that can affect you, sometimes clogs and backups do happen. In addition to our work we encourage you to do your part to prevent problems by being careful what you flush down toilets and drains. If you do have a backup, it’s important to know that our responsibility stops as your property line. Any backups that happen in pipes on your property will be your responsibility. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover sewer backups. You may want to check with your insurance provider to add this coverage.
Q: Is sewer the same thing as storm drainage?
A: “It’s all pipes! What’s the difference?” Surprisingly quite a bit. A storm drain is a system designed to carry rainwater or melting snow, they’re often built into roadside curbs and carry water through an underground system to nearby rivers and creeks. This water is untreated so the water that enters the river is the same as the water that entered. Sanitary sewers on the other hand carry sewage from homes and businesses through underground pipes to a wastewater treatment plant like ours. This water is treated and regulated with strict guidelines from the state and federal government to make sure it’s safe before being released into a source such as a river.
Q: Will you come pick up my trash?
A: Nope. Sanitation can mean a lot of things, however in our case we specialize in the sanitation of water. We prefer your sewer to flow to us instead of coming to collect it. Check the side of your garbage bin for the name of your garbage collection provider (most likely it’s Gallegos or Waste Management).