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Old wastewater systems result in sewage overflows, spills worsen every year


March, 2017

M. DeHart

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wastewater overflow backs up sewers

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

During storms water floods into nearby lakes and rivers

Source: USMC, Yuma, AZ

Untreated water spilling into surrounding water sources and roadways is becoming increasingly common. This overflow is a result of current wastewater systems having a tough time compensating for the increase of water during storms. Moraganton, North Carolina, suffered this fate in 2013 when wastewater operators were unable to measure how fast excess rainwater was pouring into the system and overflow ensued. The aftermath involved over 4.7 million gallons of untreated sewage wastewater from heavy rainfalls spilling into both Hunting Creek and the Catawba River.

The United States is overrun with sewage.

In the United States from 2009 to 2014, over 21,651 wastewater spills were reported. Cities with dense populations can find themselves with millions of gallons of raw sewage being dumped into their waterways after storms, and the number increases in cities with combined water systems (which includes most cities in the NorthEast). Many cities across the country have suffered from the overflow issue, and many of them have not found a lasting method to prevent it without spending hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance.

The overflow problem needs to stop.

American Rivers reports that each year over 850 billion gallons of untreated or raw sewage infiltrates the Unites States’ streams, rivers, lakes, etc. Without a progressive and modern solution this overflow of untreated water will only continue to worsen. This causes the deterioration of the surrounding environment by killing aquatic and plant life, introducing harmful pathogens to humans and animals, and more. The answer to stopping dangerous effects due to wastewater spills must be implemented as soon as possible.

Overflowing pipes causes flooding, destroying homes

Flood damage from overflow in West Virginia

Source:Liz Roll, FEMA

A plausible solution.

In some cases, the simple application of proper monitoring systems would keep sewage overflows from being as big a problem. With the ability to see how much is going through pipes on a real-time basis, wastewater operators would know when the system is starting to be overwhelmed and implement measures to prevent overflow in those areas. Increased data and knowledge leads to more efficient work, which in turn can lead to time and monetary savings.

  1. http://www.catawbariverkeeper.org/issues/library-of-documents-on-sewage-issues-and-treatment/city-of-morganton-sewage-spills
  2. https://www.wateronline.com/doc/oil-and-gas-spills-million-gallons-of-wastewater-0001
  3. https://www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/clean-water/stormwater-runoff/


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