I think many of you would agree that one of the hardest issues operators face is trying to treat an unknown or unauthorized waste stream. In the wastewater industry, there are a lot of variables that are involved in the treatment process. Some of these include stormwater and its runoff, normal domestic waste, sewer accumulation and a number of harmful fats, oils and greases (FOG), which all end up in the treatment plant. Some of the make-up of the above-mentioned streams can cause very difficult situations for operators of treatment plants.
A very useful tool for a municipality to regulate and control its domestic waste that reaches the wastewater treatment plant is the sewer use ordinance. A sewer use ordinance regulates the use of public and private sewers and drains, private wastewater disposal, the installation and connection of building sewers and the discharge of waters and wastes into the public sewer system. The diagram below shows an example of building sewer connections. The connections in red should be disallowed in the sewer use ordinance.
Factors that should be regulated in a sewer use ordinance:
- Designate who is responsible for enforcement.
- Define the area that the ordinance governs.
- Define the type of buildings that are affected.
- Explain the consequences for not following the ordinance.
- Give provisions for private wastewater disposal.
- Define policy for building sewers and connections.
- Give provisions for public usage of sewers.
- Define parameters for metals and other harmful contaminants.
- Define misuse and abuse.
- Define the authority of the inspectors of the sewers.
- Explain the penalties associated with violations of the ordinance.
- Define fats, oils and grease programs and their provisions.
As each one of these provisions is reviewed, evaluate how each one will impact your city, county and region. Also, be mindful of how the public relations, public awareness and public interest will be handled. As the changes are implemented, there will be a lot of questions, opposition and correspondence that will have to be positively addressed. Be thorough in the first draft so that there will have to be very few amendments or provisions in the early stages. Once the blueprint for the ordinance is established, give a reasonable effective date that enforcement will begin. Use this ordinance to govern everything that enters the sewer or that is harmful to the treatment process, and be fair in enforcing the penalties. By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to defining and enforcing an effective sewer use ordinance.