Most of us are familiar with the damaging effects of phosphate pollution and e. coli contamination in Vermont’s lakes. Unfortunately, our contribution of pollutants doesn’t end there. The typical Vermont household flushes, pours, spills, or spreads a wide range of other harmful materials and chemicals:
- Fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) such as bacon grease and frying oils clog pipes, pumps, and tanks;
- Fibrous materials such as paper towels, tampons, Q-Tips, dental floss, hair, and so-called “flushable” wipes cause treatment system blockages that are expensive to repair;
- Solid objects such as tampon applicators and cigarette butts, and plastic films such as product wrappers also cause clogs;
- PPCPs – pharmaceuticals and personal care products — such as antibiotics, anti-microbials, birth control pills, insect repellent, hair dyes, and laundry products end up in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, harming aquatic ecosystems;
- Chemicals used in the garage, lawn, and garden – degreasers, solvents, waxes, paints, antifreeze, fertilizers, insecticides, and weed-killers — wreak havoc in aquatic ecosystems, causing animal deformities and upsetting food chains.
In homes with private septic systems, these contaminants impair system effectiveness and enter groundwater flow; also, when private septic tanks are pumped, the material is often taken to a municipal plant for treatment (see following).
Homes on town/city sewers release these contaminants directly to the inflows of their public wastewater treatment facilities. The FOGs and solid materials cause blockages, requiring repairs and costing taxpayers money. Many of the harmful chemicals cannot be detected or removed by facilities, so too many end up – invisible, but damaging – in our natural waters.
The only remedy is to prevent them from entering the water in the first place. That means we, as individuals, need to learn what NOT to allow into our wastewater (and stormwater), and how to properly dispose of pollutants.
Thanks to the LCBP grant, GMWEA is now developing a series of four informational brochures, to be sent to every city and town in Vermont. Delivered to ratepayers with water/sewer bills, the brochures – along with website/blog postings and other media coverage – will inform Vermont households about how to reduce their outputs of ecosystem-damaging chemicals/materials and how to dispose of them properly.