Examining Wastewater: Gaining Insight into Clean Water

Wastewater is a common byproduct of any community, regardless of its size. It involves used water that contains a wide variety of materials including  food scraps, oils, soaps, and chemicals. From everyday activities, such as washing clothes and dishes, to flushing toilets and taking a bath, all generate used water. Industries and businesses also generate significant quantities of wastewater that require cleaning.

Although some people may confuse it with sewage treatment, nature inherently has the ability to purify small quantities of wastewater and sewage produced from daily living. Treatment plants, however, are designed to reduce wastewater to an environmentally safe level. This is essential because materials that are washed away from roads, parking lots, and rooftops can contaminate water bodies. Clean water is important not only for the environment but also for other reasons, such as:

The Importance of Wastewater Treatment

Wastewater treatment is essential to ensure that any suspended solids are removed before returning to the water source, also known as effluent. Failure to do so can have a significant impact on the environment and human health. Therefore, it is critical to ensure proper wastewater treatment to prevent any adverse effects on the environment and human health.

The Journey of Sewage: Understanding the City’s Infrastructure

Waste travels from individual homes and enters the City’s extensive network of gravity sewer lines, which span approximately 32 miles. These lines vary in size from 6 inches to 21 inches. Eventually, all the sewer lines converge at one of the 13 sewer pump stations within the City limits.

The City operates four primary sewer lift stations, which utilize a 3-mile force main to transport raw sewage directly to the sewer headworks at the sewer lagoons for treatment.

With approximately 3,600 sewer hookups, the City processes an average of 400,000 gallons of sewage per day during the summer months, increasing to over a million gallons in the winter, depending on the rainfall.

Our Waste Management System: A Closer Look

Our facility is home to four expansive Facultative lagoons, covering approximately 52 acres. The collection system enters the headworks, where the gallons are tallied, before being directed to the first pond. From there, the sewage transfers through Pond 2, 3 and 4. This process is purely biological and involves sludge digestion.

During the summer months, the sewage is contained within the ponds, before being chlorinated and then de-chlorinated during discharge into Willamette River in the winter months. We have recently installed a spray irrigation system to further aid our storage during the summer.

This system sends water to a local farmer, who uses it for watering his fields.

  • Decaying organic matter can cause a decrease in oxygen levels in a lake or water source, making it impossible for fish and other aquatic life to survive.
  • Bacteria, viruses, and diseases can pollute beaches, shellfish populations, and drinking water sources.
  • Chlorine compounds can be toxic to aquatic algae and fish.
  • Excessive nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen can be toxic to aquatic organisms, and cause a variety of issues such as excessive plant growth, reduced oxygen levels, harm to spawn grounds, and habitat alterations.
  • Metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic can have negative effects on various species, ranging from minor to severe toxicity.
  • Other substances, like pharmaceutical and personal care products, entering the environment through wastewater effluents may pose a threat to human health, aquatic, and wildlife.
Miles of Sewer Lines
Pump Stations
Sewer Hookups
Gallons of H2O In Summer
Gallons of H2O In Winter

The Mechanics Behind Wastewater Lagoons

Wastewater treatment can be completed through natural and biochemical processes in a specially designed earthen pond called a wastewater treatment lagoon. This method is especially popular in rural areas due to its low maintenance and high energy efficiency, making it an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to other wastewater treatment options. For more information, check out the video!

A City Sewer System

Improving Sewer Maintenance 

Our team has devised a comprehensive map of the entire town for sewer cleaning. Our big vactor truck is equipped with a high-pressure hose that uses nozzles of varying shapes and sizes to clean sewer lines. We send the hose up the line and as it’s pulled back, it picks up debris which is then sucked out by our truck.

While we don’t have a consistent cleaning schedule in place yet, we prioritize problem areas and work on cleaning blocks of areas as we are able to. Our team is committed to providing the best possible maintenance for your sewer system.

Upkeep of the Sewer Lateral

Responsibility for maintaining the sewer lateral that runs from a home to the City’s mainline sewer connection falls on the homeowner.

It’s essential to keep in mind that flushing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet can have severe consequences. Even products claiming to be flushable, such as wipes, are not suitable for flushing. Unlike toilet paper, they don’t dissolve, so they can cause significant problems in the sewer system. They often get stuck on roots that have grown into the pipes, leading to backups, or get caught up in machinery at the treatment plant, requiring time and effort to clear the debris. The sewer system is meant to handle biological waste, not trash. When garbage gets into the system, it doesn’t break down and can cause significant problems. Any garbage that makes it through the system must be extracted and taken to a landfill.

Maintain Your Plumbing: What Not to Flush:

  • Paper Towels
  • Cigarette Butts
  • Disposable Diapers
  • Wipes (baby or flushable)
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Plastics
  • Medications
  • Cotton (cotton swabs or balls)
  • Dental Floss
  • Toxic Substances

Proper upkeep of your plumbing system is essential. Avoid flushing certain items down the toilet and dispose of them in the trash to prevent damage.

Before you start any excavation work, it’s essential to make a call to prevent damage to underground facilities and avoid bodily injury or service interruption. Even if you are hand digging with a shovel, it’s still recommended to call if you plan to dig more than 6 inches. You never know if there’s an underground power or gas line that could be impacted.

The Oregon Utility Notification Center is a free service available to property owners to protect them from such mishaps. You can coordinate with your utility services to mark the location of your electric, natural gas, communications, water, and sewer utilities to avoid damaging underground lines.

To get in touch with the Oregon Utility Notification Center, simply dial 811 from your cell phone or 1.800.332.2344. For more information on what you need to know before you make the call, visit the Oregon Utility Notification Center website

The Dangers of Pouring Grease Down Your Drain – Fats, Oils, Grease 

It’s easy to assume that substances like cooking grease, gravy, oils and sauces are safe when they’re in liquid form. However, these substances can turn thick and gluey as they cool. Disposing of them can be a challenge. Pouring grease down your drain can cause pipe blockages and lead to unsanitary sewer overflows.

Scrap Or Pour Grease Into A Container

Freeze The Grease

Toss In The Trash Once Frozen 

Annual Reports

We take our responsibility for preserving the quality of our rivers and watersheds seriously, which is why we provide comprehensive reports on the previous year’s performance of the Independence wastewater collection and treatment system. These reports are mandatory at the start of each year, and they help to protect the water quality of our environment.