Sanitary Sewers

Some Things Just Don't Belong in the Toilet

Toilets are only meant for one activity only. When the wrong thing is flushed, the result can include costly backups on your own property or problems at your local wastewater treatment plant. The same holds true for discarded kitchen grease. That’s why it’s so important to treat toilets and household drains properly. Flush only your personal contributions to the local wastewater treatment plant.

Avoid These Items

Items that should never be flushed:

  • Wet wipes, including baby wipes, makeup remover wipes and similar items - see more information at this link
  • Diapers
  • Rags and towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Syringes
  • Candy and other food wrappers
  • Clothing labels
  • Cleaning sponges
  • Toys
  • Plastic items of any description
  • Aquarium gravel or kitty litter
  • Rubber items such as latex gloves
  • Cigarette butts
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Hair
  • Underwear
  • Disposable toilet brushes

Roots! Roots! Roots!

“The intrusion of roots into sewers is probably the most destructive single element that faces those maintaining a wastewater collection system,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. There are more than 2.5 billion feet of sewer pipe in the United States, and 60% of all collection systems have pipes that are 8 inches or smaller. Root intrusion problems can cause back-ups (stoppages) in homes, businesses, and institutions. Overflows of this nature are called sanitary sewer overflows (SSO’S) are considered prohibited discharges. Roots enter collection systems due to the broken, cracked, separated, or collapsed sewer pipes, usually due to the age of the system.

When a seed germinates, it adds one cell at a time toward the best environment from which it might extract nutrients and moisture. The growing point of roots move best through loosely cultivated soil. The most common practice to lay sewer pipe is by open trench. The back-filled soil offers a good growing medium for roots. Because the flow in sanitary lines is a higher temperature than the soil, this causes a condensation to appear on the crown of the pipe. As warm moisture from the sewer pipe evaporates up through the soil, the vapors offer an excellent trail for the roots to follow. If even a vapor leak exists in the pipe, the root concentrates at this point. Since some pipe joint compounds are of nutrient material themselves, the root may entirely girdle the joint before entering the sanitary sewer. Once inside the sewer pipe, the root takes on the appearance of either a “veil” or “tail” type structure. If flows in the pipe are fairly constant, the root mass hangs down like a veil to the normal flow level where they can accumulate deposits of grease, slime, and other debris.

The Orono Wastewater Collection System has 22 miles of sewer pipe and over 400 manholes. The University of Maine has 9 miles of sewer pipe. These figures do not include the miles of private sewer service laterals that each home, business, or institution has connected to the public sanitary sewer. Roots are a problem in the Orono Collection System. For some, roots have been a problem for years. Instead of having the service lateral dug up and replaced, they have a commercial sewer service contractor unplug the blockage. This solves the problem temporarily, but until the service line is replaced, the problem continues to reoccur. (1.) It is extremely important to make sure the sewer service contractor “camera” your service line when blockages occur. (2.) Examine the video carefully to learn the cause of the blockage, seek a second opinion if necessary. (3) Plan accordingly to replace the service lateral, seek more than one price from qualified contractor.

More Information

If you have any questions or need assistance please do not hesitate to call the Orono Water Pollution Control Facility at 207-866-5069.