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June 1, 2023 – 10 Things You Need to Know about Wastewater and the Environment

May contain: outdoors and water

You may not realize it, but wastewater treatment and the environment go hand-in-hand. The proper “cleaning” — or treatment — of wastewater plays an essential role in protecting our ecosystem and maintaining the waterways we love and depend on.

At Boxelder Sanitation District, we are committed to protecting our environment and doing everything possible to be good stewards of our land and water. We do this by meeting and exceeding all state and federal wastewater treatment regulations.

When it comes to wastewater treatment and Boxelder’s environmental stewardship, here are 10 things you need to know:

1) What is wastewater and where does it come from? 

Simply put, wastewater is any water that has been used and goes down the drain. At home, this is water used for bathing, brushing teeth, preparing dinner, and flushing the toilet. Commercially, wastewater comes from manufacturing, restaurants, car washes, and so forth.

2) How much wastewater does our community generate? 

Boxelder Sanitation District serves a population of roughly 18,000 people. Each day, our customers produce around 2 million gallons of wastewater, which through our sewer system ends up at the Boxelder treatment plant. This is a significant volume, and Boxelder takes seriously the responsibility to effectively treat wastewater so that it can be returned to Boxelder Creek and Cache la Poudre River.

3) After wastewater leaves a home or business how does Boxelder “clean” the water? 

In short, our treatment plant uses a state-of-the-art Biological Nutrient Removal process that removes pollutants such as phosphorous and inorganic nitrogen. All wastewater that enters our facility is treated to strict quality limits to ensure these pollutants don’t reach our rivers and streams. The complete wastewater treatment process involves the removal of organic and inorganic solids and a thorough disinfection process. If you’d like to learn more about wastewater treatment and see all six steps of the process, check out our treatment process overview here.

4) Does wastewater treatment require the use of chemicals? 

Our treatment process accelerates what naturally occurs in lakes and streams and uses very few chemicals. What we do at the treatment plant gives nature a helping hand by speeding up the process and doing it more efficiently. One way we do this is through UV light disinfection which means we employ a physical process instead of a chemical one (traditionally the use of chlorine) to kill pathogenic organisms. We also use naturally occurring microorganisms (we call them “bugs”) to break down solids in wastewater so they don’t enter the environment. In 2021, we updated our solids removal process, making it significantly more efficient. You can read more about our state-of-the-art solids treatment process here.

5) If Boxelder wasn’t here to treat wastewater, what environmental effects would we see? 

Wastewater treatment plays an important role in safeguarding our ecosystem and public health. If left untreated, wastewater can contaminate drinking water sources and spread diseases. This is why we take wastewater treatment so seriously. While nature can cope with small amounts of wastewater and pollutants, it cannot handle the amount and types of wastewater that modern society produces. That’s where wastewater treatment providers, such as Boxelder, come in.

We work hard to ensure that our District’s wastewater is properly treated and meets all state and federal regulations. In fact, our treatment plant has received awards for its ability to treat wastewater and keep our rivers and streams free from contaminants. Because of our staff’s dedication to wastewater treatment, customers can confidently flush their wastewater knowing Boxelder is on the other side to effectively eliminate contaminants before they reach our waterways.

6) How does treating wastewater benefit the community? 

Wastewater treatment plays two primary roles in the community. First, we give our customers peace of mind. Because of wastewater treatment, homes and businesses can flush their water down the drain knowing it will be properly collected and treated. Second, wastewater treatment ensures that all wastewater we receive is treated to remove pollutants before they enter the environment. This helps keep our waterways, such as Boxelder Creek and Cache la Poudre River, clean and safe for drinking water, irrigation, and recreation. Wastewater treatment is one of many important systems that enables plant, animal, and human ecosystems to function cohesively.

7) How do you know the water you discharge is safe? 

Wastewater treatment providers, such as Boxelder, are required to adhere to a variety of strict state and federal regulations that are designed to protect our country’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands from pollution. The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law governing water pollution in the U.S. and gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to set standards for what can and cannot be discharged into our water. Boxelder complies with all regulations set forth by the EPA and the State of Colorado. We are also a three-time Gold Peak Performance Award recipient from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. If you want to learn more about how wastewater regulations impact the District, we have a blog about it

8) I’ve heard a lot about PFAS in the news recently. Do I need to be concerned about “forever chemicals” passing into the environment through wastewater? 

PFAS, and the regulations around them, are emerging topics we are monitoring closely. Currently, there are no state or federal regulations for PFAS and wastewater treatment, but we anticipate they are coming. However, new this year are requirements to begin testing for PFAS in our solids.

9) Do wildfires have any impact on wastewater treatment? 

Wildfires do not directly impact wastewater treatment. However, they can affect drinking water supplies. If you’d like to learn more about the impact of wildfires on drinking water, CSU Extension has a great article here. The water providers in our area monitor water quality closely to ensure what flows through your tap is clean and safe. But remember, Boxelder is responsible for the wastewater that goes down your drains and leaves your home. So, while we don’t typically see a direct impact from wildfires it is something we keep an eye on since all water flows together.

10) How does what I flush impact the treatment facility and the environment? 

Everything you put down any drain in your home (including sinks, showers, toilets, and washing machines) makes its way through over 100 miles of sewer lines and ends up at the Boxelder treatment plant. It is then our responsibility to treat the wastewater, regardless of what we receive, to ensure safe water enters the environment. Removing contaminants and inorganic solids is challenging and strains the treatment process. Some items cause backups or clogs at your home or in our facility, which are expensive to repair. By watching what you flush, you can help us make the treatment process smooth and efficient.Only flush the 3 Ps — pee, poo, and (toilet) paper. Dispose of everything else in the trash. Remember, when in doubt — throw it out! If you need a refresher on what can and cannot go down the drain, be sure to check out our what not to flush resource.

When it comes to wastewater and the environment, Boxelder is proud to be on the leading edge of maintaining regulatory compliance through excellence in operations. We ensure that the wastewater you send into the sewers is treated to the highest standards that keep our waterways, environment, and community safe.

If you have any questions about Boxelder’s role in protecting the environment or the wastewater treatment process, don’t hesitate to contact us.