Love your loo this #WorldToiletDay

November 18, 2015

On World Toilet Day it’s comforting to think how lucky we are in Canberra, it could be so different. It is incredible to think that more people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet, a simple thing that we generally take for granted.

After leaving our toilets, the wastewater goes through a maze of mostly underground pipes, pumps and treatment processes that help us return our City’s wastewater back in to our local rivers almost as clean as when we removed it for drinking water.   

As an engineer at the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre (LMWQCC), Canberra’s main sewage treatment facility, I am fully aware of just how important it is to have a plant that is designed and built well, closely monitored, and carefully operated and maintained.   

As a parent with young children, I am grateful that when my kids flush the toilet, or when I’ve done my third load of washing for the day, there is a team of people working 24 hours 7 days a week, to make sure the wastewater gets to the treatment plant, and that once it gets there, it is treated to a very high standard in order to return it to the environment. That way, my kids (and anyone downstream) are not being directly exposed to human waste and its pathogens that could make them very sick.    

The sewage treatment process ensures that we do our part to ensure the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers downstream remain healthy. This includes making sure that suspended particles don’t make the water murky, biodegradable matter doesn’t suck all the oxygen out of the water, and that high levels of nutrients such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus are removed to prevent algal blooms.   

There are things Canberrans can do in their homes to help the treatment process at LMWQCC and in fact the whole Murray Darling Basin ecosystem:

In the toilet:

  • toilet paper should be the thickest type of material you flush. Cotton and plastic/rubber products expand or don’t breakdown in the pipes, so they can block your home’s plumbing, as well as sewers downstream
  • fix a leaking toilet cistern, and use a dual flush toilet to minimise water use. Although most of our sewers flow by gravity, Canberra’s hilly terrain means that there are several pump stations needed to get the sewage to the treatment plant. Every drop of water that is pumped uses electricity.  

In the kitchen:

  • don’t put fat, oils or grease down the sink. They can not only block your home’s plumbing, but can block larger sewers as was seen in London recently with the “fatberg” incident! 
  • remember, unused medicines shouldn’t go down the sink or get flushed. Talk to your local pharmacist about disposal options.  

In the laundry:

  • use the right amount of washing detergent. Overdosing does not make your washing any cleaner, and can actually make it dirtier. Detergents also contain a lot of salts that the treatment process doesn’t remove, so those salts end up in our rivers. 
  • use low or no phosphate detergents. We use chemicals to remove phosphorus, so the less that’s in there, the less we need to dose.

Outside:

  • Don’t pour used motor oil, paint, unused pesticides, or other toxic chemicals down our sewers (or for that matter the stormwater system). Part of the sewage treatment process is biological and our special bugs don’t like it!  

*The Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre accepts used motor oil, paints and thinners, and household cleaners and chemicals for free. 

 
Story | Laura Fuhrman - Water and Wastewater Treatment Engineer

 

What is Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre?