Most people don’t think about what happens once a toilet is flushed or water goes down a drain, but we should. What we put down the drain has farther reaching effects than most think. From tissues and fats that clog the pipes, to medications and chemicals that are hard or impossible to remove during treatment, we should start thinking of the impact our habits are having.
FOG stands for FATS, OILS, and GREASE. They hide in many places like baked goods and pastries, lard, butter, cream-based sauces, dairy, and gravy. Oils are fat in its liquid form, found in vegetable oils, margarine, and salad dressing. This also includes motor oil. Greases are made of meat drippings, greasy foods, etc.
When fats, oils and greases enter the wastewater or septic system, they cool, solidify and stick onto the sides of the pipe. Over time, more layers build until the line is completely blocked, causing backup which can lead to clogged drains and toilets, raw sewage backing up into your home and environment, expensive clean up, repairs and replacements, unpleasant odors and potential public health risks.
Chemicals and medications are difficult and costly to remove during the wastewater treatment process. Some of them cannot be removed and end up back in streams and groundwater. It is important to properly dispose of the items below.
Medications: Unused medications shouldn’t be kept where they might be abused, but flushing them down the drain is not a good option. By flushing them, they dissolve and become very hard to remove from the water, introducing the chemicals back into the environment. They also have the potential to create drug-resistant viruses and bacteria. The FDA recommends crushing unused medications up with small-grained waste and throwing it in the trash.
Household chemicals: Like medications, these chemicals are very hard to remove during the wastewater treatment process. Many also have the potential to corrode your pipes. Check the instructions on the back of the container to find out how to best dispose of chemicals. Also check with your local county for hazardous chemical collection dates.
Bathroom Wipes: bathroom wipes — those thick, moist towelettes — are advertised as flushable and can, in fact, be flushed down the toilet. Once in the sewer system, however, studies have found they don’t break down. Instead they contribute to clogs in the pipes and pumps, requiring costly repairs. Other clogging culprits include baby wipes, paper towels, make-up removing towels, disinfecting wipes, and feminine products. These should all be disposed of in the trash.