Water: Problems in Our Sewage System

Rome’s Cloaca Maxima (Photo Credit: The History Blog)

Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Although we have come a long way from the Ancient Romans, the sewage we produce nowadays is much more complex. Everything we use (detergents, clothes, plastics, etc.) and consume (food, drugs, etc.) in our daily lives will likely get into our sewage system eventually. Although the sewage systems can eliminate waste (paper towels, feces, drugs, and other nutrients) from the public, the sewage cannot be fully cleaned with our current wastewater methods. Among some of the pollutants discovered are:

  • Drugs (i.e. Acetaminophen, cocaine, etc.)
  • Antibiotics
  • Steroids
  • Hormones (Birth control devices flushed down the toilet)
  • Microplastics (i.e. Polyester, Polyethylene terephthalate, etc.)

Water Infrastructure

Another issue identified with sewage systems is that a built infrastructure is designed to be used for 30–50 years, which means a wastewater treatment plant may be outdated when dealing with new contaminants. In order to make an impact and fulfill the goal to make water fully circulate, we have to be more innovative in how we treat water, especially when the cost in the wastewater treatment process is a detractor [4].

Septic Tanks in Your Yards Are Failing

For those not familiar with septic tanks, they are underground wastewater treatment structures that are commonly used in rural areas, which constitute around 20 percent of U.S. households that rely on this type of system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [6]. The problem with septic systems is the increasing and intensified rains that flood the tank and spills its contents onto the backyard, rendering them ineffective. When this happens, smelly and unhealthy wastewater backs up into homes.

Our Thoughts

Water is the most essential element on the planet, and no one can live without water, especially potable water. The looming water crisis however is much closer than everyone thinks even in wealthy countries like the U.S., Germany, and Netherlands. Furthermore, polluted wastewater can also significantly affect the water cycle and the entire ecosystem, and the problems shall be properly faced and solved.



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霈軒 (Owen)

霈軒 (Owen)

An Environmental Engineer who loves Nature and Frogs! Let’s enjoy what the Earth brings to us and secure it! // 熱愛大自然、熱愛青蛙的環境工程師 // 讓我們一起遨遊並沈浸在大自然中吧!