A letter from a potty-training resident reminds us to say “thank you” for flushing
Letter from Amy, Watsonville resident-in-potty-training, to Wastewater Treatment staff.
An unsuspecting package arrived at the City of Watsonville’s Wastewater Treatment Plant this October. Adorned with heart stamps and doodle illustrations, a letter from a young Watsonville resident-in-potty-training named Amy revealed uncommon questions about where her sewer water goes after she flushes the toilet. A child undergoing this human-natured milestone has the awareness to consider these processes, but how often do adults get to know their toilets to the bowels of its bowl? An avoided and stigmatized conversation topic, Amy’s inquiries come on the heels of World Toilet Day, internationally recognized by the United Nations. This Sunday, November 19th, The City of Watsonville encourages residents to honor the hours spent on their highly coveted commodes by becoming knowledgeable about how to prevent sanitary sewer overflows and protect their local sewer system for the long term.
Today, 4.5 billion people worldwide live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste while 869 million people still practice open defecation. Human waste in the environment can spread life threatening diseases, seriously undermining progress in health and child survival. A sustainable development goal for UN-Water aims to achieve the containment, transportation, treatment and safe disposal or reuse of global wastewater by 2030.
Most villages in India receive their water from wells or lakes like this, which is contaminated from open defecation.
In Watsonville, we would be remiss not to remind ourselves of the great fortune that comes with flushing. The City’s wastewater treatment facility cleanses an average of roughly 5.2 million gallons of wastewater per day including what is flushed down toilets, shower drains, kitchen sinks, agricultural food processing operations, and many commercial businesses including car washes. More than 170 miles of pipeline is used to transport wastewater to the facility where, through a multi-phased process, solids are extracted, water is treated, and even methane is captured for renewable energy use. Tertiary treated water serves the dual purpose of irrigating coastal crops, helping to alleviate groundwater overdraft and saltwater intrusion concerns.
In correspondence with Amy, Ruben Tellez, Collection Systems Operator asked “how often do you think about your toilet? I believe we should all think about our toilets every day.” There is an urgent need to break taboos surrounding the subject of human waste. Awareness and open communication promotes a greater understanding of the issue, which can hopefully lead to positive change. Mr. Tellez, who is part of a team that ensures that the pipes leading to the treatment plant are flowing efficiently added, “Knowing our sanitary sewer is safely contained for our community is our number one priority. Our entire system is a real luxury when you look at this social and environmental justice issue on an international scale.”
To commemorate World Toilet Day this Sunday, Watsonville residents are invited to prevent backups by flushing only toilet paper and nothing else especially diaper wipes, and to never pour kitchen grease down the drain as it is a leading cause of sewer line blockages. Lastly, homeowners can strengthen City sewers by scheduling a regular cleaning of their property’s sewer lateral with a local, licensed plumbing inspector.
Collections System Operator, Ruben Tellez, using remotely operated video technology to inspect City sewer lines.