Residential Pollution Prevention

What goes down your drain can end up in San Francisco Bay. Though wastewater treatment removes many pollutants, trace amounts of some substances can persist through the treatment process, with unknown or harmful effects on San Francisco Bay. The wisest solution is to prevent pollution from going down the drain in the first place. Here are some potential sources of pollutants lurking in and around your home or workplace, and what you can do about them.

Antibacterial and Antimicrobial Products

Reduce or eliminate your use of products containing troclosan and triclocarban.

Antibacterial ingredients are common in everyday products like hand soaps, dish and laundry soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, cutting boards and countertops. The American Medical Association reported there is "little evidence to support the use of antimicrobials in consumer products such as topical hand lotions and soaps." EBMUD has phased out purchases of triclosan and triclocarban-containing products for its facilities. For more information, see the Watershed Management Initiative's white paper on triclosan.

Automobiles

Wash your car at a professional or "do it yourself" faciility. Dispose of automotive fluids at a recycling center or household hazardous waste facility.

Car wash facilities treat their dirty water to remove most pollutants. Their wastewater is then further treated at a wastewater treatment plant to remove remaining contaminants. Washing cars at home can send soap, grease and other pollutants down storm drains, and into the Bay.  Automotive fluids should never go down any drain. Instead, use the recycling search tool at BayWise to find a nearby disposal location.

Clean It Guide

Cleaning Products

Use less-toxic cleaning products or make your own. Dispose of toxic products properly.

Ready to clean out the garage and tackle those tough cleaning projects? Not so fast. Some cleaning products contain toxic compounds that can be harmful to you and the Bay, so it's wise to use less-toxic alternatives, and when getting rid of old products, never pour them down indoor or outdoor drains.

For less-toxic alternatives, see the EBMUD's Customer Pipeline for quick cleaning tips, or for more in-depth information, EBMUD's "Clean It" guide, linked below. You can request a hard copy by calling (510) 287-1651. At BayWise you will find an "eco-home" with ideas for keeping your family, and the Bay, healthy -- inside and outside your home, as well as a search engine for locations to properly dispose of items you no longer want.

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Fats, Oils and Grease

Fats, oils and grease (FOG) can block sewer lines, causing raw sewage to backup at home, into streets and the Bay. Scrape cooking fats, oils and grease into the garbage or into your green recycling bin.

Get more information:

  • a list of drop-off locations for residents
  • how to order a free FOG scraper
  • frequently asked questions
  • tips for commercial restaurants
Grow It Guide

Gardening Products

Look for less-toxic alternatives for fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Never pour gardening products down any indoor or outdoor drain, and be careful to never apply them before a storm.

For tips on envrionmentally-friendly gardening, click on the documents below. Also check out Our Water - Our World to get an expert's opinion about your pest problem, or find a green pest control operator at Ecowise Certified.

Dispose of Medicines Safely

Did you know that when you flush your unused medicines down the toilet, they cannot be fully removed by traditional wastewater treatment processes? That means they can end up in the Bay. The best way to protect the Bay and safely get rid of your expired and unwanted medicines is to discard them at a designated collection site. EBMUD provides pharmaceutical disposal bins at nine sites. Click here for more details on how to dispose of medicines safely.

Mercury

Dispose of mercury-containing items at household hazardous waste collection centers or a thermometer exchange event.

Find nearby recycling locations for mercury thermometers, thermostats, and washing machine switches at BayWise. If you'd like to organize a thermometer exchange for your school, church or community organization, email cleanbay@ebmud.com.

Nanomaterials

Consider the possible effects of namomaterials when buying products that contain them.

Nanomaterials (as small as 1/100,000 the width of a human hair) hold promise for improved medical treatment, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and prevention, and stronger, lighter materials. However, there is little regulatory oversight for products using nanotechnology, little information on how nanomaterials behave in the environment and if and how they degrade over time, and if they pose dangers to fish and wildlife. Hundreds of consumer products may wash nanomaterials down the drain. Nanosilver and nanocopper clothing may release metals when washed, nanosilver is used in some washing machines, and myriad nanomaterials are found in personal care products. EBMUD does not provide rebates on washing machines that use silver nanoparticles or ions.

For more information on nanomaterials, see the Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Nanotechnology and the Environmental Protection Agency's Nanotechnology Fact Sheet.

Non-Flushable Wipes and Products

No matter if the label says "disposable" or "flushable," household cleaning and personal hygiene products should never be flushed.

"Disposable" or "flushable" wipes and other products don't breakdown in the sewer. Instead, they get tangled and clumped in hair and debris creating massive obstructions in the sewers. Remember... your toilet is not a trash can!

DON'T... flush item such as wipes, sanitary napkins, diapers, rags, towels, hair, cigarette butts, kitty litter and doggy waste bags.

DO... flush ONLY Human Waste and Toilet Paper.

Paint, Motor Oil and Other Household Hazardous Waste

Do NOT dispose of household chemicals, such as paint thinner, pesticides, fertilizers or automotive fluids (new or used), down the drain.

Take these items to a household hazardous waste collection center. Go to the recycling search tool at BayWise for nearby disposal locations.

Residential Pollution Prevention

Keep Your Pool, Spa and Fountain Copper-Free

Resolve persistent algae problems without copper algaecides. Use chorine or other copper-free alternatives, such as polymeric and ammonia based algaecides and sodium bromide.

If you've owned a pool for any length of time, you've probably dealt with the occasional algae flare-up. Your cure may have included a dose of copper-algaecide. While that may do the trick, it limits your options when it's time to drain your pool.

Copper is highly toxic to most aquatic life. Water containing copper from pools, spas or fountains should never be discharged to the storm or sewer drains. Wastewater treatment plants can remove some, but not all copper from discharges. Reducing or eliminating the use of copper in pools, spas and fountain will better protect our San Francisco Bay.

Here is more information to maintain copper free pools, spas and fountains, so you can ensure your pool practices protect  aquatic life in the Bay.