Containers for Recycled Water

If you are interested in getting free recycled water from our Recycled Water Fill Station, you have to bring your own containers. The maximum fill per trip is 300 gallons. There is no limit on number of trips.

Container requirements:

  • Must be a minimum size of one gallon
  • Must be specifically designed to hold liquids (e.g., no trash barrels!)
  • Must have watertight lids
  • Must be secured for safe transport

Central San does not endorse any particular brand of container, but here are some ideas (not to scale):

275-Gallon Tote
275-Gallon Tote

 

55-Gallon Drum
55-Gallon Drum

 

7.5-Gallon Container
7.5-Gallon Container

 

5-Gallon Container
5-Gallon Container

 

1-Gallon Container
1-Gal. Container

Please Note: Water is heavy! Ten gallons weigh more than 80 pounds; 100 gallons weigh more than 800 pounds. When driving vehicles with such heavy loads, expect less stability and be sure to allow for additional stopping distance.

We do not sell containers. Depending on your needs, you may be able to find something at a local hardware store. Many people have also used Craigslist, EBay, and Amazon to find containers.

 

Keep Your Butts Out of the Bay

Cigarette butts are the most common item of trash collected during beach clean-up events. They also comprise an estimated 30-50% of all trash collected from roads and streets.

But they’re more than just a litter problem. When you throw cigarette butts on the ground or flush them down your toilet, you’re polluting the Bay.

cigarette butt pollution
Please keep your butts out of the Bay!

When butts are dropped on sidewalks, parking lots, streets or into gutters, they are often swept down storm drains with rain or irrigation runoff. Our storm drains flow untreated into local creeks and the Bay.

When you flush butts down the toilet, they travel through sewers to the wastewater treatment plant. Treatment plants are designed to remove human biological wastes. They cannot remove all traces of toxic chemicals.

Yes, cigarette butts are loaded with toxic chemicals!

The purpose of a cigarette butt (filter) is to trap the toxic chemicals created in the smoke when the cigarette burns. Nicotine is the chemical most people associate with cigarettes, but that’s only one of the toxins captured by the filter. “Tar” refers to more than 3,500 chemical particles (including arsenic, vinyl chloride, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, mercury and lead) generated by a burning cigarette.

Those toxic chemicals, many of which are especially lethal to aquatic life, leach out of the butts when exposed to water.

But that’s not the only problem with cigarette butts. Most are made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable, but it does eventually break down into small pieces. Fish and birds mistake these pieces for food and eat them, often with fatal consequences and long-lasting damage to the ecosystem.

This is one type of pollution that is easily preventable.

If you smoke, please dispose of your butts properly. Don’t throw them on the ground. Don’t flush them.

Otherwise, that little flick of your wrist can do serious harm to our water environment.

Grease is Gross! (Especially for Sewers)

If you do this:

frying shrimp

Please don’t do this:

Never pour grease down the drain
Never pour grease down the drain!

Pouring grease down the drain is one of the worst things you can do to your home’s plumbing — and the public sewers.

Some people think it “goes away” when they wash it down the drain with hot water. It doesn’t. Grease quickly cools, hardens, and then clings to the inside of pipes. It forms a gross, sticky blob that grows over time. Eventually the pipe can become totally clogged, and sewage can backup and overflow in your home, or in the streets.

Instead of pouring it down the drain, put cooled grease (and fatty food scraps and used cooking oil) into a disposable lidded container. Store it in the freezer to harden, and then put it in the trash.

Bring large quantities of grease and oil (such as from a turkey fryer) to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility for recycling into biofuels.

Watch this video for more info:

 

The Scoop on Pet Poop

puppy and kitten

We know they’re cute. They’re loyal and loving, and who can resist those adorable furry faces? But there’s another side to cuddly cats and dogs: the back side that produces poop pollution!

From Your Lawn to the Bay

According to the EPA, pet waste is a significant cause of water pollution.

When left on the ground, pet waste can be washed by water from sprinklers and rain into gutters and storm drains. Storm drains in our area are not connected to the sewer system; they funnel water directly into creeks, streams and the bay without treatment.

In water, the bacteria in decaying pet waste consume oxygen and release ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can be harmful to aquatic life. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote excessive weed and algae growth, making water cloudy, green, and unhealthy.

Perhaps most importantly, pet waste contains bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make water unsafe for swimming or drinking.

Dog eye roll

The Solution Is As Simple as 1, 2, 3

It’s easy to prevent pet poop from polluting our water environment. Just follow these three steps:

1. Pick it up
2. Put it in a bag
3. Put it in the trash (never in the yard waste or compost bins!)

Landfills are designed to handle that type of waste.

Can You Flush It?

Please do NOT flush pet waste.

• Out treatment plant was designed to serve the human population of central Contra Costa County, not accounting for pets. Right now there are nearly 470,000 people in our service area. We don’t know the pet population, but if 50% of our customers have one pet, that’s about 235,000 additional little (or big) poopers. If all that pet waste were to be flushed, it would put an additional load on our system and could make it more difficult for our treatment plant to treat the human waste for which it was designed.

• Please do not flush Flush Puppies® or other brands of “flushable” dog poop bags. They may be biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean they dissolve quickly in water (one manufacturer admits this can take up to 96 hours). Even though they go down your toilet, they can clog sewer pipes!

What About Flushing Kitty Litter?

Cat

Typical kitty litter is made of clay. Clay mixed with water makes something close to cement which can clog your pipes. Even if it isn’t made of clay, nearly all litter is designed to absorb liquid, and when that happens, the particles expand; your pipes don’t. “Flushable” kitty litter may be more biodegradable, but can still clog your pipes. Sewer (and septic) systems just aren’t designed to handle kitty litter, no matter what it’s made of.

Aside from the litter itself, what’s in the litter – cat poop – may contain the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which can survive the treatment process and is known to kill marine mammals like sea otters. That’s why all cat litter sold in California is required to have a label warning people not to flush it down the toilet.

Put the litter into a bag, seal it, and put it in the trash.

How to Make Greener Cleaners

Winter is over, and for many homeowners that means it’s time for spring cleaning. Unfortunately, many cleaning products contain metals, solvents, and toxic chemicals. If poured down your drain, these can pollute Suisun Bay because our wastewater treatment process is designed to treat biological wastes; it cannot remove all traces of those pollutants before the treated water flows into the Bay.

Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (which are technically pesticides) that can make bacteria more resistant to antibacterial drugs!

But don’t worry, we have alternatives for you that use baking soda, borax, lemon juice and other ingredients that are friendlier to our water environment. These homemade solutions are also less expensive than commercial cleaning products.

Natural cleaners
Natural DIY cleaners are safer for the environment and easier on your wallet!

All-purpose cleaner: Baking soda mixed with a little water (paste consistency). For stubborn stains, work it in and let it sit for a while before you remove with a damp cloth or sponge.

Disinfectant: Full-strength white distilled vinegar. Spray or rub on surfaces, door knobs, etc. Alternative: ½ cup Borax in 1 gallon hot water.

Drain cleaner: Baking soda, salt, vinegar, boiling water. Pour ½ cup baking soda and ¼ cup salt into drain, add ½ cup vinegar, cover drain while fizzing (let sit overnight for best results), then flush with boiling water. To clear clogs, use a Zip-It drain cleaning tool, plumber’s snake, or plunger. Note: Do NOT use the baking soda combination or a plunger after using a commercial drain opener. Tip: To avoid clogs, use drain strainers to trap food particles and hair; collect grease in cans rather than pouring it down the drain.

Glass cleaner: 2 cups water, 1 cup white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent. Put in spray bottle; use to remove wax residue left by commercial window cleaners. After that residue is removed, you can leave out the soap for future cleaning. Alternative: lemon juice and water. Tip: Wiping with newspaper instead of paper towels prevents streaks.

Grease remover: Lemon juice or vinegar. Spray or douse, let sit a few minutes, then scrub.

Lime & mineral deposit remover: Vinegar and paper towels. Hard lime deposits around faucets can be softened for easy removal by covering the deposits with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Leave paper towels on for one hour before cleaning.

Mildew remover: Undiluted white distilled vinegar. Use it on a cloth or sponge mop to wipe down surfaces.

Oven cleaner: Baking soda and very fine steel wool. Sprinkle water followed by a layer of baking soda. Let stand overnight. Rub gently with a very fine steel wool pad. Wipe off scum with dry paper towels or sponge. Rinse well and wipe dry.

Scuffmark/watermark remover: Toothpaste. Use to remove scuffmarks from floors and watermarks from wood furniture.

Now that you’ll be using these homemade alternatives, you can dispose of your unwanted commercial cleansers (as well as paint, pesticides, batteries, solvents, cleansers, and other potentially hazardous household products) free of charge at our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. Never put them down the drain or in the trash.

Are Tree Roots Inside Your Pipes?

Tree roots are the leading cause of sewer clogs and overflows.

Hair-thin roots infiltrate sewer pipes through tiny cracks, and then thrive on the moisture and nutrients inside. It doesn’t take long for them to spread out and begin snagging materials like grease, wipes, and other items people put down drains and toilets. Soon the pipe can become completely blocked, and even break apart as the roots and blockage continue to grow.

Tree roots are the #1 cause of sewer clogs.
Tree roots are the #1 cause of sewer clogs.

How to Prevent Root Problems In Your Pipe

• Find out where your sewer pipes are. Companies that do this are online/in the phone book as “Pipe & Leak Locating Services.”

• Don’t plant trees or shrubs above or near the sewer pipes (or install root barriers when planting).

• Maintain your house side sewer/lateral. If there are trees near the pipe, have it inspected/cleaned by a professional plumbing service every other year.

• If you have continuing root problems, consider removing the offending tree or shrub.

• Ensure an Overflow Protection Device is installed on your sewer pipe’s cleanout.

Tree roots clog a sewer pipe.
Tree roots inside a sewer pipe.

Do You Have a Leaking Toilet?

We’re experiencing an extreme drought and need to conserve as much water as possible. Have you checked your toilet for leaks lately?

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one in every five household toilets leaks – and a leaking toilet can waste more than 100 gallons of water every day!

Since the leaks are usually silent, here’s a simple way to know if your toilet is leaking: put a few drops of food coloring or dye in the toilet tank. If the dye shows up in the unflushed toilet bowl after 15 minutes, the toilet is leaking.

Pouring Dye in Toilet Tank
To check for a leak, pour dye (or food coloring) into the toilet tank.
If the dye shows up in the toilet bowl after a few minutes, the toilet is leaking!
If the dye shows up in the toilet bowl after a few minutes, the toilet is leaking!

Leaking is usually caused by a worn-out or poorly fitting flapper valve in the tank. (This problem might occur more often if you’re using in-tank cleaners that release bleach into the tank water; excessive chlorine can damage flapper valves over time.) A replacement flapper valve (available at any hardware store) is inexpensive and easy to install.

If replacing the flapper valve doesn’t do the trick and you need to replace the entire toilet, look for a model with “WaterSense” on the label. According to the EPA, replacing an older, inefficient toilet with a new WaterSense model could save up to 13,000 gallons of water per year!

For more information on how to detect and repair common household water leaks, please visit the EPA’s website.

Sticker Shock!

Produce stickersDid you know most produce stickers are made of plastic? If they go down the drain as you wash your fruits and veggies, they can get stuck in your plumbing, or in our wastewater treatment plant pumps, hoses, screens and filters. Worse, they can end up in Suisun Bay!

It’s extremely difficult for our treatment processes to remove small pieces of plastic from the wastewater. Please don’t let these stickers go down the drain!

Keep them out of compost piles and green bins, too. Even so-called “compostable” and “biodegradable” stickers take a very long time to degrade. They can also get washed into storm drains when it rains, and add to the shocking amount of plastic polluting our environment.

Keep your sewer system happy and trouble-free by throwing produce stickers in the trash!

An Academy for Curious Customers

Curious about how we clean your wastewater? How we invest your sewer service charge fees? How we prevent water pollution and protect the environment?

Learn about all of this and more by participating in our FREE Citizens Academy!

For details and how to apply, please visit our website: Central San Academy.

Central San Academy

Maintaining the Flow

Central San uses 1,500 miles of sewer pipes and 19 pumping stations to transport sewage from about 160,000 homes and businesses to our treatment plant in Martinez. Here’s how we do it: