How Are Cities Managing Wastewater Spills?

With so many industrial facilities and an aging infrastructure, it’s somehow inevitable for wastewater spills and sewage leaks to occur every now and then. But, with so much potential causes for water pollution, how are cities managing wastewater spills?

That’s exactly what this article will be focusing on today. It should be noted that in developed countries, efficient sanitary methods have been developed in an urban environment, including highly-effective sewer systems.

But first, let’s take a look at some of the main causes of sewage spills in the first place.

The Primary Causes Of Sewage Spills In Cities

Wastewater spills and leaks may result from different defect and faults in the urban sewer system, such as:

  • Overloaded public drainage system – City sewer lines are put under huge amounts of pressure due to all the water that builds up inside. Aging and damaged sewer systems pose the greatest risk of leaks and spills, that can find their way into the urban streets of even our homes.
  • Rainstorms – The urban plumbing systems aren’t completely foolproof and under certain conditions, they can cause sewage spills. Heavy rainstorms are one such condition, as the resulting huge amounts of water, in combination with dirt and other debris can potentially clog the sewer lines, leading to wastewater spills.
  • Flushing improper items down the toilet – It matters what we throw into our toilets and flushing down things that aren’t meant to be disposed of in a toilet (like rags, paper towels, oil etc.) may lead to clogged pipes. And that may very well lead to spillage of sewage and wastewater.

However, cities have a particular system in place that’s meant to optimize the sanitary and sewer structures, that aims to minimize the chance for wastewater spills.

Best Management Practices And Sewage Spill Prevention In Cities

Every city in developed countries utilizes a particular sewer system that relies on pipes that connect private properties to the main service lines of the city. Whether it’s an industrial complex or someone’s home, private service laterals are used, as they help transport sewage to the local wastewater treatment plant.

In essence, this is what the sewage management in an urban environment looks like:

  • Home/industrial facility (toilet, cleanout etc.)
  • Private service laterals
  • City main sewer line
  • Wastewater treatment plant

This system is rather straightforward and it’s meant to provide a simple, yet effective solution for managing wastewater and taking adequate care of it in wastewater treatment plant of a given city.
But who’s responsible for sewage spills and leaks in a city?

There are certain laws and regulations when it comes to responsibility and wastewater spills in an urban environment. Depending on where a sewage spill took place in, here’s how the responsibility is distributed:

Homeowners are responsible for wastewater leaks and spills, resulting from broken or blocked private pipelines – there are fines for allowing sewage water into waterways and sewers
If citizens come across any spills or blockages of the main sewer lines, they are bound to report them to their city’s waste management department, which will take care of the problem accordingly.

Most Cities Also Have Sewage Prevention Plans

These are part of a city’s sewage and wastewater management system and they include:

  • Routine inspections of the sewer lines
  • Cleaning and unblocking pipes by getting rid of debris, grease etc.
  • Fixing any structural problems of the main sewer line

Apart from that, there are certain steps that everyone can take in order to minimize the chance of sewage spills, such as:

  • Be careful with disposing of fats and cooking oils – These can not only clog your sink but when they reach groundwater, such oils emit toxic pollution.
  • Dispose of chemical substances appropriately – From pesticides to household chemicals, flushing such contaminants down the toilet is never advised as they might end up in the water supply of a particular city.
  • Never dump sewage near rivers – Sewage that’s been dumped near or even at rivers or lakes will most certainly contaminate them, as all the bacteria, viruses and pathogens will spread really fast in the water.

Regardless, make sure to report any wastewater spills or leaks, whether or not they’re intentional or unintentional.

Wrapping It Up

While wastewater spills might be a global issue, cities in first world-countries have certain methods and systems, designed to minimize any potential issues and contamination of water supplies.
Now, have you ever come across sewage spills in your city and what do you think about the overall effectiveness of the urban sanitary-sewer systems? Let us know in the comment section below!