How bad is a sewage overflow for the environment?

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The dangers of a sewage overflow from fats, oils. grease.

We are going to get right to the point, a sewage overflow is bad for the environment and public health. When raw sewage makes its way into the environment and ultimately our fresh water supply, we are all at risk. Our aging infrastructure, coupled with a change in food preferences (fried foods) and modern products (wet wipes), are leading to more sanitary sewage overflows.

“Much of the nation’s sewage collection infrastructure is between 30 and 100 years old, placing them at increased risk for leaks, blockages and malfunctions due to deterioration.” (United States Environmental Protection Agency | EPA)

Health Risks from a Sewage Overflow

From the EPA: Raw sewage contains disease-causing pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, worms, and protozoa. Diseases resulting from enteric pathogens range from stomach flu and upper respiratory infections to potentially life-threatening illnesses such as cholera, dysentery, Hepatitis B, and cryptosporidiosis.

When sewage overflows contaminate public places and waters, people can be put at risk of exposure to the untreated sewage when: Drinking from a contaminated community water supply, eating contaminated fish or shellfish and swimming in contaminated open water.

Aside from health risks to humans – animals and ecosystems are also put in danger by sewage overflows. A key concern with sewage overflows which enter rivers, lakes, streams, or wetlands is their effect on water quality. The environmental impacts of sewage include hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, habitat degradation, floating debris, and impacts to threatened or endangered species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 50% of threatened and endangered species are water-dependent.

Economic Activity is Disrupted

When sewage enters local bodies of water (oceans, streams, wetlands) it puts a halt on economic activity. Fishing has to slow down or cease completely and a ban can be placed on harvesting anything from the contaminated area and people are prohibited from entering the water. This is particularly hard if your state depends on an aquatic industry or if your state relies on these for tourism, much like Hawaii does.

“During 1995, as much as 6.7 million acres of shellfish beds were forbidden to be harvested by the government. A staggering 72% of these restrictions cited water pollution as the reason. Fisheries existing in waters contaminated by sewage overflows also face the same kind of closure, if not lowered production and lowered consumer confidence in the product. Contaminated bodies of water will have higher restrictions on factory wastewater discharges. These limits will make factories lower their production and will make companies consider relocating and therefore removing much needed jobs from the local community.” (Midwest Remediation)

Sewage Overflows Cause Major Property Damage

From the EPA: An untold number of private basement backups occur each year. In addition to the problem of human exposure, these spills can cause structural damage to building frames and foundations as well as water damage to electrical and gas appliances that are typically located in the basement. They can also damage or destroy floor and wall coverings and personal property. The costs to repair damage and disinfect the area can range into the thousands and are not typically covered by insurance.

Sewer overflows frequently spill into homeowner yards, damaging landscaping, driveways, and outside possessions. Municipal property damage from a major sewer overflow can be severe. Communities pay billions per year to clean up and repair overflow damage to sewer infrastructure, roads and other transportation assets, parks and recreation areas, and municipal water supplies and treatment facilities.

Key Takeaway

Sewage overflow solutions are minimal and once raw sewage enters homes, neighborhoods and the local environment, the damage is hard to remedy. By properly disposing of fats, oils and grease as well as watching what we flush down the toilet, we can help minimize the amount and severity of sewage overflows, and have a long-term positive impact on not only our own home’s plumbing and city sewer systems but the environment as well.


Join Our Mission to save the environment and properly dispose of Fats, Oils, and Grease.



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