What is a Wastewater System?
A wastewater system—also referred to as a sewer system—carries wastewater from homes, businesses and other buildings to a place to be treated or disposed of.
There are two types of wastewater coming out of your home:
- Greywater comes from sinks, dishwashers, showers, washing machines and bathtubs. This type of wastewater makes up for more than half of wastewater produced in households.
- Blackwater comes from toilets. It consists of urine, feces, flush water and cleaning materials like toilet paper. Both types of wastewater travel through underground pipes to a wastewater plant, where it is filtered and treated before being discharged back into the environment.
Some communities have combined systems, where wastewater and stormwater are carried away from their source through the same pipes. Others have separate systems, one for wastewater and another for rain and stormwater.
How it works:
Each sewer system is unique, but wastewater typically flows from your home through a sewer lateral, which is a small pipe that runs under your property to a sewer main under the street. There it combines with the discharge of nearby homes and flows to a larger interceptor with more of the area’s wastewater, to a basin where it is stored near a treatment facility until it is ready to be processed.
Once it reaches the facility, the wastewater is treated using a variety of processes to remove contaminants so it can be reintroduced into the environment or, in some cases, recycled as clean water for consumption or general use.
Why are wastewater systems important?
Your community needs to take care of your wastewater system to keep both the community and the environment healthy and safe. Wastewater is filled with bacteria, biohazards and chemicals that are harmful to public health. Contaminated water can also damage the environment if it is not properly treated before it is reintroduced. Some wastewater systems help prevent flooding during heavy rain and natural disasters.
Why are my pipes being inspected?
Communities are at risk for backups, sewer overflows, sinkholes and other issues if their wastewater systems aren’t well maintained. These problems can expose the public to polluted wastewater and contaminate clean water sources. They can also mean costly repairs for cities.
To identify problems before they happen, operators use high tech cameras to look down manholes, and drive wheeled, robotic cameras down sewer lines. The earlier defects are found and repaired, the lower the risk of damage to a community.