Down the drain and out of sight! Where does your wastewater go in Jefferson Co?

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Local school groups regularly tour the Jefferson County water reclamation facilities to learn all about how their water is treated and where it comes from! Photo via Jefferson County

How many times a day do you run a faucet, take a shower or flush a toilet? As the wastewater spins down the drain and heads into oblivion—where does it actually go? Here’s an inside look at what goes on beyond the flush right here in Jefferson County.

Who’s in Charge Here?

There are a total of 9 water reclamation facilities spread all over the county. Photo via Jefferson County

Going back to the “dawn” of wastewater treatment,  cleaning up wastewater has saved more lives than modern medicine.  Now—I won’t bore you with a history lesson, but that is still true today!

Taking wastewater and turning it into clean water that is safe for humans to be around and to return to the environment is one of the most important tasks of any city.

Think about it—if we return to the “old ways” and wastewater was put directly into a creek or river, then Jefferson County would not be able to get water for drinking, waterways would be unusable, and populated areas would become unlivable and “shutdown”. 

That’s a pretty big responsibility—and it all falls on the Jefferson County Environmental Services Department. They define their role as follows:

The Jefferson County Environmental Services Department… has the responsibility to collect, transport and treat sanitary sewage in Jefferson County. 

1. How Water Reclamation Works in Jefferson County

Treatment facilities are massive operations, and we all play a part in helping them run smoothly. Photo via Jefferson County

By the numbers:

  • Over 3,173 miles of sewer lines
  • 176 pumping stations
  • 9 water reclamation facilities 
  • 480,000 residents served
  • 199 million gallons of sewage treated per day

That’s a pretty broad system. After all, it takes a lot of work to get wastewater in, cleaned and treated in order for there to be clean running water available at the turn of a tap.

2. “Not-so-Flushable” Items are a National Problem

This is what can happen when the system gets clogged. Photo via Jefferson County

You may have seen our video warning Jefferson County residents against flushing “flushable” wipes. It causes serious damage to these water reclamation facilities, as well as leading to all sorts of issues!

What you may not have known is this is a national problem. Items labeled as flushable clog up the system, therefore keeping those 199 million gallons of sewage from getting where they need to go.

Ryerson University conducted this study on the subject. Not one single wipe of the 101 tested was able to fall apart or disperse safely through the sewer system test.

Flushing single-use products, even ones labeled as “flushable,” can negatively impact household plumbing, sewage infrastructure, and consequently, the environment.

3. Water Reclamation Facilities in Jefferson County have Won Numerous Awards

When non-biodegradable items get put into the sewer system, it doesn’t just end up in concrete holding tanks. That trash can be washed into our beautiful Alabama landscape and cause long-term damage. Photo via Jefferson County

Are you surprised to find out there are awards for water reclamation facilities? I was, too! Turns out, not only do these awards exist—Jefferson County’s water reclamation facilities have won many of them.

In the last year alone, Jefferson County has won the following:

  • Valley Creek: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Silver Award 
  • Cahaba River: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Gold Award 
  • Trussville: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Silver Award 
  • Leeds: 2018 Alabama’s Water Environment Association Recognition Award 
  • Leeds: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Gold Award
  • Five Mile Creek: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Gold Award
  • Prudes Creek: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Gold Award
  • Turkey Creek: 2018 Alabama’s Water Environment Association Recognition Award
  • Turkey Creek: 2018 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Silver Award
  • Warrior River: 2018 Alabama’s Water Environment Association Award of Excellence
  • Warrior River: 2019 National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Awards – Platinum 12 Award

4. There are 3 Free Resources Jefferson County Residents May Not Be Using

Water reclamation facilities are actually only 1 of four major divisions in the Environmental Services Dept. Photo via Jefferson County

If you’re running out of empty Crisco cans, Jefferson County offers FREE household cooking oil recycling. Check out this map of grease recycling centers in order to find the location closest to you!

You can see an estimation of your bill online before it ever comes to you! Jefferson County offers a Residential Bill Calculator that’s easy to use.

Last but not least, you can view an in-depth report of your water quality at the end of every quarter online! Jefferson County releases water quality reports 4 times a year, and they offer several outsourced resources providing even more info.

Looking to keep up with the latest in Jefferson County news? Follow JeffCo on Facebook or Twitter and never miss an update!

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