Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You don’t have to hold it in, if your wastewater treatment plant works well

Wastewater treatment is something that most of us take for granted. Taking a shower, cooking, going to the toilet, these are very natural activities for us and the fact that we are producing wastewater daily 100 - 150 l is not easy to realize. Wastewater is just a side product of our everyday lives. We flush our products and they disappear somewhere. Only when this automatic flush is not working we realize how important role good sanitation has in our lives.

Whether we think about it or not, wastewater affects to our environment and how well your product is treated might have an effect on your local beach or fishing area. In the end treated and untreated waste waters will reach the Baltic Sea. Waste waters are one of the biggest point source polluters of the sea. Pollution prevention is difficult. Of course we should use phosphate free detergents and we should not put toxic substances to the drainage. But when you have to go, you have to go. The important question is how well the local wastewater treatment plant works.

In our cities municipal wastewater treatment plants have a key role how much you pollute the surface waters nearby. Wastewater treatment plants are maybe not the first place you want to visit, but if you want to know exactly how you affect to the state of the Baltic Sea or the lake nearby, I recommend taking a little field trip. Many allow visitors and if your plant and municipality do not organize these visits make sure you and your friends ask for one. If you really are concerned about the future of the Baltic Sea you should ask what kind of treatment requirements your city or town treatment plant has and if those requirements are fulfilled. If you want to put those numbers into to perspective, you should compare those treatment requirements and results to the HELCOM recommendations for purified wastewater. To reach the recommendations means healthier sea in the future.

So next time you are thinking what to do, what new places to visit and see, make a phone call to your municipality and ask for a tour at your local wastewater treatment plant. And worry not, it does not smell that bad there…. if the treatment really works.

Hannamaria Yliruusi

PS. Another suggestion: Next time you think about donating money for fresh water, stop and think. It is not necessarily clean water that is needed but good sanitation. However it is not of course as fashionable to donate a dry toilet as a water pump.

Writer is the coordinator of the PURE project which focuses on reduction of phosphorous from selected wastewater treatment plants in the Baltic Sea Region.

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