There is a direct link between you and San Francisco Bay. What you send down your drain can affect the wastewater system all the way from your home or business to the Bay.
Cleaning products, flushable wipes, sanitary napkins, medicine and more are just some of the sources that can harm the 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 to the Bay.
Residential pollution prevention
10 things you should not flush
Everyday household and personal hygiene products can wreak havoc on your plumbing, plug up the treatment plant's equipment or contain materials that pass through the treatment plant directly to the Bay.
No matter if the label says "disposable" or "flushable," never flush these items:
- flushable wipes (they’re not so flushable!)
- sanitary napkins, tampons and applicators
- paper towels and rags
- dental floss
- cigarette butts
- kitty litter and doggy waste bags
- expired or unwanted medicines (take to a designated collection site)
These items do not break down in the sewer. Instead, they tangle and clump and the debris creates massive obstructions that can lead to sewer back-ups.
What can be flushed? Only two things: human waste and toilet paper.
What to keep out of the drain
Some household products should never be poured down indoor or outdoor drains.
- Fats, oils and grease harden in pipes and clog sewers, leading to costly and messy back-ups.
- Cleaning and gardening products may contain chemicals that wastewater treatment cannot fully remove and will pollute San Francisco Bay.
- Medicines, unwanted or expired, should not be flushed down the toilet. Pharmaceutical drugs cannot be fully removed by traditional wastewater treatment. They may contain substances with unknown or harmful effects on aquatic life. Instead, safely get rid of them at a designated collection site.
See our Residential pollution prevention page for more tips.
Commercial and industrial waste
Pretreatment and pollution prevention programs help industries and businesses reduce the discharge of pollutants to the community sewer and ultimately the Bay. Certain businesses and activities are required to obtain a permit or to implement best management practices to help with Bay protection.
East Bay Regional Private Sewer Lateral Program
This joint effort helps protect San Francisco Bay by requiring repair of old, cracked sanitary sewer pipes. Our Private Sewer Lateral Program website has more.