Wastewater - What's In It?


Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Wastewater Treatment

Domestic wastewater is a gray, turbid liquid sometimes said to have an odor of kerosene or freshly-turned earth. Wastewater contains fecal material, urine, some food scraps and cleaning agents; basically anything we put down the drain! But wastewater is mostly water, containing only about 500 parts of waste in every million parts of wastewater. That would like trying to find one of your classmates in a sold-out Michigan Stadium.

So, if it's mostly water, what's the problem? The pollutants in wastewater can cause water quality problems even in very small quantities. Here's what we're worried about and why.

Pathogens: disease-causing organisms

Solids: suspended particles that make the water turbid

Nutrients: such as phosphorus that can cause nuisance plant growth

Organic matter: that can rob the oxygen resources of streams

Toxics: metals and synthetic organic chemicals harmful to humans and wildlife

PSNOT, it snot a pretty picture!

Raw Wastewater

Raw wastewater

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