The City of Toronto finds that many items that residents use daily are not properly disposed of. Grease, oil, and grease poured down kitchen drains and sanitary products flushed down toilets can damage or clog home plumbing and city sewer lines, which can lead to flooding of the basement.
Flushing everyday objects down the toilet or disposing of them down the drain can cause major inconvenience at home, but can also significantly affect Toronto’s waterways, including streams, rivers and Lake Ontario. Although the City of Toronto manages nearly 3,800 kilometers of sanitary sewers located below streets and has more than 523,000 sewer connections, during heavy rains the sewer system can become overloaded.
In the older parts of Toronto, where the sewer system was built a century ago, combined sewers are in place. Combined sewers are those where there is only one pipe that carries both sewage and stormwater. Today, municipalities typically build a sewer infrastructure with two separate lines to handle stormwater and wastewater. Most of the time, combined sewers carry all the contents (rain, sleet, and sewage) to sewage treatment plants for complete treatment. In the event of heavy rainfall, the volume of stormwater entering these combined sewers may exceed the capacity of the system and some of the combined sewer flow must be diverted untreated to streams, rivers and the lake. Combined sewer flow discharged into waterways may contain harmful bacteria, sewage, sanitary products flushed down toilets, and stormwater runoff, which may include pet waste, cigarette butts and other pollutants.
The City of Toronto has several major projects underway to eliminate combined sewer overflows and improve water quality. The implementation of the Don River and Central Waterfront Project will virtually eliminate stormwater discharge to the lower Don River, Taylor-Massey Creek and Toronto’s Inner Harbour. This multi-faceted project will significantly improve water quality and aquatic habitat, enhance recreational uses, and move Toronto’s waterfront one step closer to delisting as a polluted area of concern in the Great Lakes Basin. This more than $3 billion project is the largest and most significant stormwater management program in the history of the City of Toronto.
Residents can help keep Toronto’s waterways clean by taking simple steps at home. In the bathroom, dispose of items such as tampons, wipes, dental floss and other sanitary products in the proper trash can. Avoid flushing wipes, even those labeled disposable, as they can clog pipes and cause blockages. In the kitchen, dispose of fats, oils, and fats in the green bin and insert baskets or strainers into sink drains to avoid clogs. When grease, oils, and grease are poured down the drain, the grease cools, hardens, and sticks inside the sewer pipes. Grease buildup can block the entire pipe and affect not only an individual’s property, but also the surrounding area if it blocks the city-owned sewer system.
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