Sharp Rise in Wastewater Blockages Calls for New Water Treatment Standards

Posted on: 28 April 2020

New risks are lurking in our wastewater and water treatment systems. Concerns over whether the virus that causes COVID-19 is decontaminated in drinking water and sewage systems have been allayed by the CDC. Water treatment services are busy treating a related problem — the clogging of sewage pipes and water plant systems with coronavirus debris.

From New York to Sydney Australia, white bergs are floating through sewage systems. These white bergs are made up of sanitary wipes, latex gloves, mop refills, and other unflushables. Many water services are reporting a 20-plus percent increase in clogs. These blockages create a rising risk of wastewater overflowing back into homes and businesses.

Signs and Symptoms of Clogged Sewage Systems 

Clogged drains and sewer systems are a serious health hazard. Raw sewage is a breeding ground for viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The first line of detection of clogs is in our homes and businesses.

Early signs of blockages arise at the point-of-usage of water. Strange odors in your hospital or business facilities may be caused by a build up of hydrogen sulfide. Symptoms associated with coronavirus could be caused by clogged pipes. They include fatigue, fever, dizziness, and loss of appetite.

How to Treat Clogged Sewage Symptoms 

These early warning signs are a reminder that wastewater and water treatment requires a lifecycle approach. Once these white bergs enter the municipal wastewater system, they are clogging wastewater treatment pipes, filters, and pumps. Yet most people are not informed that even 'biodegradable' wipes can take up to 12 months to break down and, therefore, should not be flushed. 

Flushing these white bergs into the municipal water system could ultimately affect your water quality. Businesses can prevent unflushables from entering wastewater systems by:

  • Performing regular audits and cleanings — Given the large number of wastewater systems found to be clogged and under stress, water pipe cleaning should be done more frequently than the regular maintenance.
  • Outsourcing water and wastewater services — For businesses and institutions with a large volume of wastewater, a service contractor can ensure regular cleaning, detect and troubleshoot problems, and perform preventive maintenance. 
  • Installing smart automation software — Smart connected water systems with sensors acting like the eyes and nose of technicians can provide monitoring 24/7. Risk flags at the point-of-use such as a small change in water pressure or an increase in toxins can be detected immediately.

The current crisis in wastewater systems is a wakeup call that what we flush affects our water quality and health. 

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