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.
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.
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.
Cooking Fats, Oil and Grease
Scrape cooking fats into the garbage or into your food scrap recycling bin.
Fats, oil and grease can block sewer lines, causing raw sewage to backup at home, into streets and the Bay.
- Order a free FOG scraper for scraping plates before washing.
- Place large quantities of cooking oil or grease in sealed container and pour it out at one of EBMUD's residential cooking oil and grease drop-off locations or search for a nearby recycling location at BayWise.
- View our FOG frequently asked questions.
- Get more tips below in the Residential Fats, Oil and Grease brochure.
- For information about your community sewers, contact your local sewer system agency.
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 your unwanted prescriptions and medicines properly. EBMUD drop-off sites are listed below or see BayWise for collection sites throughout the Bay Area.
ALAMEDA: Police Station, 1555 Oak Street
Mon - Sun, 8am - 8pm
BERKELEY: Transfer Station, 1201 2nd Street
Mon - Sat, 8am - 4:30pm
BERKELEY: United Pharmacy, 2929 Telegraph Ave
Mon - Fri, 9am - 6pm; Sat, 9am - 2pm
OAKLAND: EBMUD Administrative Building (Lobby), 375 11th St at Franklin St
Mon - Fri, 8am - 4pm, except EBMUD holidays
OAKLAND: Fire Department, 1401 98th Ave at International
Every day 8am - 8pm (ring the doorbell)
OAKLAND: Fire Department, 1445 14th St at Mandela Parkway
Every day 8 am - 8pm (ring the doorbell)
OAKLAND: Elihu Harris State Building Lobby, 1515 Clay Street
Mon - Fri, 8am - 5pm, except state holidays
EL CERRITO: Recycling Center, 7501 Schmidt Lane
Mon - Fri, 8am - 4:45pm; Sat - Sun, 9am - 4:45pm
To protect privacy and preserve space in collection bins, please dump pills and capsules into a plastic ziplock bag and recycle pill bottles at home. Liquids may remain in original leak-proof containers with labels removed or marked out. No vitamins, needles, batteries, thermometers or controlled substances (12k PDF), please. Vitamins may be disposed of safely in the trash.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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