Residents probably don’t think too much about what goes down their drain, but it’s especially important for businesses to be aware of what goes into theirs. Introducing the wrong material into the wastewater system can cause major problems for the Brownsville Public Utilities Board (BPUB) and ultimately for the community as well.

There are many ordinances and laws that regulate what a company can dispose of and how it can be done. Some of those things, like toxic material, are easy to understand, but there are other things that some people might not think about that are also regulated, like gas, oil, FOG (fats, oils and grease), chemicals and types of paint.

Once wastewater is finished being treated, it is discharged, usually into a canal or some other body of water. Because of this, wastewater treatment systems are subject to the Clean Water Act, falling under the regulations of federal and state environmental agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), as well as local ordinances. Because treated wastewater is discharged back into the environment, it’s important to follow these laws to not contaminate a drinking water source.

But how much damage can dumping something other than water do to a wastewater system? You’d be surprised. A wastewater system is an ecosystem all its own. Because of the mixture of water and human waste, there are certain gases that develop and microorganisms that feed on those things. Wastewater personnel must maintain a certain balance within that system. Certain microorganisms are necessary to break down materials. If someone dumps something that doesn’t belong in the wastewater system, that balance can get interrupted. Microorganisms can get killed off, paving the way for harmful elements to take over.

If there’s a harmful substance in the wastewater once it reaches the treatment plant, it can cause even more problems by further upsetting the ecosystem and creating new challenges for treating that wastewater. While many of these things seem to apply mainly to BPUB, that’s not actually the case. Improperly treated wastewater can contaminate a drinking water supply or cause problems with the local environment. Before it reaches a treatment plant, the confined space that the wastewater is in can cause additional problems. For instance, if someone pours gasoline or oil into the wastewater system, it can create a serious hazard, one that can result in fire or an explosion.

Because of this, it’s very important that businesses follow all guidelines for its given industry. Failure to do so can result in environmental problems, loss of service or repair bills for the business. Dumping FOG down the drain can lead to clogged pipes that a business must repair.

If a business is caught illegally discharging a material into the wastewater treatment system, there can be serious fines levied against the business. So, make sure that you think twice before tossing something down the sink. If you have any questions about proper wastewater disposal at your business, you can contact the Pretreatment Department here at BPUB at 956-983-6510. We’re here to help!

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