While the wastewater treatment plant effectively removes organic material from wastewater, it is not designed to remove most chemicals, metals, and small plastics. So, when these items are sent down household drains, they pass through the system untreated and end up in the Napa River and eventually the Bay, where they may threaten sensitive aquatic life.
The best way to protect water quality and the environment is by preventing pollution before it happens. And prevention is a lot easier and less expensive than cleaning up after the fact! So we offer some tips for residents and business owners to help you start taking simple steps towards pollution prevention.
Downspouts & Sump Pumps
Napa gets about 24 inches of rain a year, and most of that falls during short storms with heavy rainfall. To channel that water off of their property quickly, some people connect their downspouts or sump pumps to the sanitary sewer. The problem with this drainage “solution” is that extra rainwater sent to the sanitary sewer during storms can overwhelm the sewage system. The resulting overflows cause raw sewage to run into streets and flow to creeks and the Napa River. This creates a health hazard for humans and wildlife alike. Plus connecting your downspouts or sump pump to the sewer is illegal!
Check to make sure that your downspouts or sump pump are draining to your yard or the gutter, never to the sewer. Some possibilities for keeping rainwater out of the sewer while protecting and enhancing your property are:
- Connect your downspouts and sump pump to the storm drain.
- Direct your downspout to a lawn or landscaped area where water can soak into the soil.
- Direct your downspout to a rain garden (PDF). A rain garden is a shallow depression that collects rainwater and is often planted with native plants. Besides managing runoff on your property, a rain garden can also allow water to percolate into the groundwater and helps to filter out pollutants. See a list of plants (PDF), including natives, that work well in rain gardens.
- Install a rain barrel under your downspout to capture water for use when it’s dry.
Think your downspout or sump pump might be connected to the sewer, but don’t know how to check? Call us at 707-258-6000 and we’ll come take a look and let you know.
Home & Garden
You can maintain your home and garden and still protect the health of your family, pets, and the environment. Adopt less toxic, common sense techniques to managing pests, and when necessary, dispose of toxic products at the Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. For more information and resources for a less toxic home, visit Our Water, Our World.
Household Hazardous Waste
Just because it’s a liquid doesn’t mean it should go down the drain. Household products like paint, solvent, and pesticides can wreak havoc with processes at the wastewater treatment plant. To safely dispose of these products, take them to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.
These items must go to the Hazardous Waste Collection facility:
- Automotive fluids (oil, gasoline, antifreeze, etc.)
- Cooking oil
- Drain openers
- Glues and cements
- Lighter fluids
- Medications and sharps
- Oven cleaners
- Paints and solvents
- Polishes and cleaners
- Pool chemicals
- Wood and metal cleaners
For a complete list of all the items accepted at the Hazardous Waste Collection Facility, check the Recycling Guide online or look under "Recycling" in your Yellow Pages for the full Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Guide for Napa County.
Other Household Waste
Fats, oils, and grease (FOG), as well as many objects commonly flushed down the toilet are another burden on our septic systems and environment. Read more about FOG and flushing objects.
Plastic microbeads are showing up in many personal care products. These small plastic beads pass through the water treatment process and end up in our rivers and bays. They are consumed by fish and other wildlife, causing damaging and even making their way back into our own food cycle. The microbeads used in personal care products are mainly made of polyethylene (PE), but can be also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and nylon. These microbeads should be avoided.
Safe Disposal of Unneeded Medications
Is a plethora of pills cluttering your medicine cabinet? Unneeded or expired medications can accumulate and create a hazard for children and a temptation for teens. But don’t flush them away; even the most sophisticated wastewater treatment plant can’t remove pharmaceuticals. Instead, take them to the Yountville Sheriff Station, St. Helena Police Station, Vasconi's Pharmacy in St. Helena, Calistoga Police Station, or the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. You’ll protect your family and water quality!
No controlled substances are accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility.
Mercury is a highly toxic pollutant that can severely affect the central nervous system, impair hearing and speech, and cause blindness, paralysis, or even death. People are most commonly exposed to mercury by way of broken fever thermometers. A typical thermometer contains about a gram of mercury; enough to make all the fish in it unsafe to eat!
Because thermometers are usually stored and used in the bathroom, when they break, the mercury often gets washed down the drain. Unfortunately, mercury does not get removed in the wastewater treatment process.
To protect your family and the environment, NapaSan will trade in your old mercury thermometer for a new digital thermometer. Call us at 707-258-6000 for details.
Making Your Pool, Spa, or Fountain “Green”
Controlling algae in your pool, spa or fountain with a copper algaecide threatens aquatic life in our local waterways. Here are some ways to make your pool, spa, or fountain “green”:
- Call NapaSan at 707-258-6000 to get a permit to drain your pool to the sanitary sewer
- Control algae with proper chlorine levels and regular cleaning
- Don’t drain your pool, spa, or fountain to a street, gutter, or storm drain
- Spa or fountain water can be drained to a landscaped area
For more ways to maintain your pool, spa, or fountain and protect local waterways, check out our Maintenance Tips for Pools, Spas, and Fountains (PDF).
Shop Green Businesses
Do your part! By choosing Green Businesses you help to protect our environment, because Green Businesses prevent pollution, reduce waste, conserve resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can search for Green Businesses in the Bay Area and throughout California on the California Green Business Program website. You can also learn about the Napa County Green Business Program.