Is Your Used Oil Just Oil?

Used oil and filtersUsed motor oil is one of the most common items brought to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. About 22,000 gallons of used oil is brought in for recycling each year by our residential customers.

Due to a couple of recent contamination issues, we’re asking everyone who performs their own vehicle maintenance or repair to never mix chemicals with their used oil.

Oil that is contaminated with chemicals cannot be recycled.

When used oil is brought to our facility, we transfer it to a large storage barrel that can hold 4,000 gallons. If we unknowingly receive oil that has been mixed with chemicals, it will contaminate all of the oil being stored, rendering it useless. In addition to needlessly wasting up to 4,000 gallons of oil (which could have been recycled and used for more than 2,300 oil changes), receiving contaminated oil can cost us thousands of dollars in clean-up costs because our oil storage barrels and equipment must be decontaminated.

Please do not mix anything with your used oil. This includes:

• parts cleaner solvent
• antifreeze
• brake fluid
• paint
• pesticides
• cleaners
• water (a small amount is okay)

If the oil has been contaminated, we can still accept it. Write “Contaminated oil” on the container and point it out so we know to handle it separately.

Please help us continue to accept and recycle your used oil. Let’s work together to reduce waste and conserve our resources!

Shining a Light on Hidden Toxins

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lights contain mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.
Old ballasts (the electrical component of fluorescent light fixtures) can contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), highly toxic synthetic chemicals (banned in 1978).

Don’t worry. You will not be exposed to mercury or PCBs when using fluorescent lights.

But please keep this in mind when changing out light fixtures: If you improperly dispose of fluorescent lights or ballasts and they break apart, their toxins can leach into ground water or surface waters, causing serious harm to the environment.

The best way to safely dispose of fluorescent lights and ballasts is to bring them to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility

• For fluorescent lights, put them in their original packaging, if possible. Otherwise, wrap them in newspaper to keep them from breaking. Secure them in your trunk or truck bed to avoid broken glass or mercury exposure in case of an accident. Please do not tape tubes together, as they will need to be loose to be recycled.

• Ballasts that do not contain PCBs are marked “No PCBs” on their labels. If a ballast is not so marked, assume it contains PCBs and bring it to the facility, but remove the ballast from the light fixture first. If the ballast is leaking, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and place all cleanup materials (rags, wipes, etc.) into the bag with it.

Fluorescents Are Still a Good Choice; LEDs are Better

Fluorescent lights are still a good choice because they use less energy than incandescent lamps and last up to ten times longer. Reducing energy use cuts down on power plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants.

Better yet, use LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights. LED lights are even more energy efficient, do not contain mercury or other hazardous materials, and can be put in the trash.

Please call 1-800-646-1431 for more information.

Is Your Sewer Pipe About to Fail?

Nothing lasts forever, and a sewer pipe is no exception.

Property owners are responsible for the sewer pipe (called a lateral or side sewer) that connects the plumbing of their house or building to the public sewer under the street. The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (Central San) is responsible for the public sewers, only.

While modern PVC (plastic) pipes last for up to 100 years, older pipes made from clay tile, cast iron, or other materials wear out much sooner. If your house was built before the 1970s, there’s a good chance the pipe is clay and could soon wear out.

As older pipes deteriorate, hair-thin tree roots can squeeze into joints or cracks. The moisture and nutrients within the pipe enable the roots to thrive and grow until they block or even break the pipe.

Sewer pipes can also get clogged by an accumulation of grease and debris (such as disposable wipes).

clogged sink

DO: Dispose of grease, wipes and debris in the trash.

How Do I Know if My Sewer Pipe Needs to be Repaired?

Have your sewer pipe inspected by a licensed plumbing contractor if:
• You have a sewage backup;
• A toilet or household drain empties more slowly than usual;
• Patches in your yard are always wet.

DO: Get a video inspection of the inside of the pipe to determine whether it is damaged or simply clogged.

How Much Will Repairs Cost?

The cost of a sewer repair can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars and will depend on several factors, such as location, accessibility, length of the pipe, depth of the pipe, cause of failure, type of material, and the number of connections.

DO: Have repairs made before an overflow occurs, if possible; otherwise, your costs could be significantly more.

What If I Have More Questions?

calling for help

DO: Contact Central San’s Permit Staff at (925) 229-7371.

Mercury-Free Solar Fever Thermometers are Hot!

Mercury is highly toxic.

If you drop and break an old-fashioned mercury fever thermometer in a sink, its mercury could go down the drain and get into the wastewater that flows through sewers to the treatment plant. However, the treatment process cannot remove all traces of mercury, so some will end up in local waters, causing harm to aquatic life.

Because of this, the sale of mercury fever thermometers was banned in California years ago. But some people still have them at home. Digital thermometers are much better for the environment.

That’s why Central San will give a free digital solar (no batteries!) thermometer to our customers who bring an old mercury-filled thermometer to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility for safe disposal!

solar digital thermometers
Replace mercury-filled thermometers with solar digital ones!

For more information, please call 1-800-646-1431.

Central San Awards Four Businesses for Protecting the Environment

Central San has identified four local businesses as shining examples of environmental stewardship, and will present each with a Pollution Prevention Award at Sustainable Contra Costa’s annual Leadership in Sustainability & Green Building Awards Gala on September 21:

Barrelista Coffee House & Café, 736 Main St., Martinez

They have dramatically reduced waste by using compostable food trays, cutlery and cups, and by serving iced espresso drinks in mason jars which customers can keep and reuse.

Barrelista Coffee House & Café
Barrelista Coffee House & Café
Kee’s Auto Body, 2171 Monument Blvd., Concord

They are conserving precious water resources by eliminating wet sanding and using wax in lieu of water to wash cars.

Kee’s Auto Body
Kee’s Auto Body
Mike’s Auto Body, 2140 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek

Their recycling system for washing cars saves valuable water, and they are conserving energy with new, highly efficient lighting.

Mike’s Auto Body
Mike’s Auto Body
Walnut Creek Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, 2404 N. Main St.,
Walnut Creek

They use a resourceful drainage piping system that greatly reduces spills while automatically transferring waste fluids (such as motor oil) to storage tanks, and have installed more energy-efficient lighting.

Walnut Creek Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram
Walnut Creek Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram

We love honoring local businesses like these that take extraordinary steps to safeguard the environment! Whether coffee shops, auto body shops, or car dealers, they are going above and beyond by recycling, reducing waste, conserving resources, and taking other actions to prevent water pollution in our area. We applaud this year’s award winners, and all businesses that make protecting the environment a top priority!

We present our Pollution Prevention Awards each year during National Pollution Prevention Week. Since initiating the program in 1992, we have recognized more than 100 environmentally friendly local businesses.

Interested in Working in the Water/Wastewater Industry?

Treatment Plant workers

Scholarships are available for classes leading to multiple careers in the water/wastewater industry!

The Bay Area Consortium for Clean Water Education is offering Community College classes and scholarships for students seeking a career in the water/wastewater industry.

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition and books, and a Plant Operator Certificate is given to students who complete the 28 required units. Students must maintain a grade of C or better in each course.

The deadline to apply for the free scholarship program is August 26.

The first class begins on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in Martinez.

Relevant jobs include Water or Wastewater Treatment Operator, Water Distribution Operator, Wastewater Collections Operator, Mechanic/Machinist, Electrician, Instrument Technician, and more.

“The water and wastewater industry offers many opportunities for people interested in careers related to water conservation and environmental protection,” said Barbara Hockett, California Association of Sanitation Agencies Education Foundation Board Member. “And those already in the industry can use this program to expand their knowledge and position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities.”

For more information about this valuable program, please go to or send an email to


Come to Our Open House!

Open House
Help us celebrate our 70 years of service!

We’re having an Open House to commemorate 70 years of service and to thank our customers for their support! This will be a fun, FREE, family-friendly event!

WHEN:  Saturday, July 16, 2016, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHERE:  Central San Headquarters, 5019 Imhoff Place, Martinez.

WHAT:   A variety of fun activities (have you ever raced a toilet?), giveaways, free food, educational exhibits, games, big truck displays (always popular with the kids), live entertainment (by local band PUSH), tours of our wastewater treatment plant, and much more!

Open House
The tour of our treatment plant is sure to be popular, so advance sign-ups for that are recommended. Please go to to sign up (the sooner the better). Be aware that this tour involves a lot of walking, including going up and down stairs, and closed-toe shoes are required.

Treatment Plant Tour
The Treatment Plant Tour is sure to be popular!

“This is the first time Central San has hosted a public Open House like this, and we’re very excited,” said our General Manager, Roger Bailey. “In addition to commemorating our 70 years of service and showing people what we do, the Open House is a way for us to thank our customers for their support. Whenever they prevent grease from going down the kitchen sink, put disposable wipes in the trash instead of the toilet, or bring chemicals and other hazardous wastes to our collection facility rather than pouring them down the drain, they are helping us to protect public health and the environment. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without their assistance, and we want to show our appreciation by inviting them to our ‘house’ to have a great time and learn more about the services we provide.”

PLEASE NOTE: Our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility and Residential Recycled Water Fill Station will NOT be open for business on July 16 due to the Open House. However, attendees will be able to get a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the HHW Facility to discover what really happens to all the materials people bring in for disposal!

The Open House is sure to be a hit with the whole family!

Truck displays
Kids of all ages love our big truck displays!

Go here to see our Open House Event on our Facebook Page.  Share it with your friends!

Toilet mug
Win this coffee mug (also makes a fun candy dish)

If you go to the Open House and post pictures of it on Facebook or Twitter, please use #CentralSan70th. You might even win a prize! We’ll randomly select five posters who use that hashtag to receive a cute toilet mug! 

See you on July 16!

Sewer Construction in Your Neighborhood?

Here’s What to Expect

Sewer construction

The single largest asset of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District is our sewer system, which consists of 1,500 miles of pipes and transports millions of gallons of wastewater every day to our treatment facility in Martinez.

Maintaining this huge system to ensure reliable service for our customers requires construction projects to renovate or replace aging pipes. Since these pipes spread throughout our entire service area, this activity is bound to have an impact on our residential and business customers.

Here’s how we communicate with customers who are likely to be affected by the construction:

Before Construction

• Nine-to-twelve months before construction activities begin, we mail letters notifying people of design activities that will be taking place in their area over the next several months. These activities include marking utility and sewer locations, surveying, and inspecting the area in order to draw up the best construction plan for the project.

• Once we have that plan, if work will be required within easements on private property, we contact those customers individually to discuss the construction and restoration activities.

• As the project nears the bidding phase, we invite all customers in the project area to a public meeting where we share our plan, answer questions, and discuss any issues of concern so we can make changes to the plan, if appropriate.

• Once the project is awarded to a contractor, we send another letter to all customers in the project area announcing when construction is expected to begin and end. A typical project can last six-to-nine months.

• As the project progresses, the contractor notifies customers one week in advance of any construction in their neighborhood.

• Signs are posted in the area which include the project duration and a contact number to call for more information.

Sewer Construction

During Construction

• During construction, one of our inspectors will be on-site to monitor the project and ensure the contractor is meeting our specifications. This includes not only the specifics of pipe installation, but also safety, cleanliness, traffic control, and property restoration.

• Customers with questions or concerns about the project can approach the on-site inspector or call our Community Affairs Representative, Chris Carpenter, at (925) 229-7200.

After Construction

• Once the project is complete, we send a survey to all customers in that area. This survey provides us with valuable feedback: people can make us aware of any issues that may have been overlooked, and let us know how they felt the project was handled. The questions cover the courtesy and responsiveness of staff, timeliness of notices, traffic impacts, and how promptly issues were resolved. Each item is rated on a scale of one to five, with five being outstanding. To date, we are maintaining an average four-plus rating for all aspects on all projects.

We understand that construction can cause inconveniences for our customers. We will continue to keep you informed of work in your neighborhood, and design projects to reduce the negative impacts where possible, all while maintaining a reliable and effective sewer system that protects public health and the environment.

You can find information about current construction projects, including project maps, at — click on “Construction Zone” in the lower right of the home page.

Click here to learn more about how we maintain the flow (video).

How to Bring Items to Our HHW Facility

Planning to bring items to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility? Here’s how to have a safe trip.

HHW Packing
Pack your items carefully before transporting them to the facility.

Are you planning to bring paint, batteries, bleach, cleansers, motor oil, pesticides, fluorescent bulbs or other items to our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility? First, think about that word, “hazardous.” Now think about the interior of your vehicle. Think about you being inside the vehicle with something hazardous… driving on roads shared by people who might be distracted.

Frightened? Don’t be! The last thing we want to do is scare you away from using our facility!

But we DO want you to be careful about how you pack and transport the items you bring. Check out this video, and/or read the tips below.

Here’s how to SAFELY transport household hazardous waste to our facility:

NOTE: State regulations limit the transportation of hazardous waste to 15 gallons or 125 pounds per trip, and individual containers are limited to 5-gallon capacity.

• Get a cardboard box (or plastic bin) sturdy enough to support the weight of the contents. Reinforce the bottom of the cardboard box with tape.

• Line the box with a plastic garbage bag (to catch spills). Fold the flaps of the box inward, place the bag inside the box, and drape it over the sides. Do NOT close the bag (our staff need to easily see what’s inside).

• Make sure all items you’ll be bringing to the facility have tightly closed lids. NEVER transport open containers!

• Keep items in their original packaging, if possible – especially with easily breakable items like fluorescent light bulbs. If you don’t have the original packaging for fluorescent bulbs or tubes, wrap a rubber band around them to keep them from rolling around in your vehicle.

• If an item is leaking, seal it within a Ziploc-style plastic bag.

• Place the items inside the lined box.

• Pack mercury-containing items (fever thermometers, thermostats, fluorescent light bulbs) carefully and keep them separate from other items that might break them if jostled.

• Put the box in your trunk or truck bed – never inside the passenger cabin. Secure the box to prevent movement.

• Drive to the facility and let our friendly staff remove your items while you remain comfortable inside your vehicle.

It really is worth the effort. Bringing your household hazardous waste to our facility helps to keep harmful materials out of our local waters and landfills.

There is no drop-off fee and no appointment necessary for residents of central Contra Costa County. Small businesses require an appointment and are charged a nominal fee.

Please call  1-800-646-1431 or view our Household Hazardous Waste Facility page for more information.

Sewer Facts vs. Fiction

Can you separate fact from fiction when it comes to what’s good — and bad — for sewers? Here’s a list that will increase your sewer IQ, and possibly help you to avoid an expensive plumbing bill!