Residential pollution prevention

Protecting the environment from watershed to San Francisco Bay

cleanbay2-01.svgEBMUD's wastewater treatment plant provides an invaluable public service for 685,000 people along the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. Sewage flows through city pipes that empty into the EBMUD collection system which delivers it to the wastewater treatment plant at the base of the Bay Bridge where it is treated. Though wastewater treatment removes many pollutants, trace amounts of some substances can persist through the treatment process, with unknown or harmful effects on the San Francisco Bay. Other pollutants can clog the pipes or in the collection system, causing sewage to back up in your home, business or into streets and waterways. 

The best solution is to prevent pollution from going down your drain in the first place. You can take action to stop pollution and protect the bay. Read below to find out more about potential sources of pollutants and what you can do to protect the bay.


Partners in action: Do what you can to stand by the bay

Cover of From Watershed to Bay.PNGThe San Francisco Bay. EBMUD works to protect this jewel but we can’t do it alone.

The impacts of urban living on our natural environment are always evolving. That’s why EBMUD partners with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a leader in monitoring the health of the Bay, and nonprofit groups like Baykeeper and Save the Bay. Together we work to keep the Bay clean.

While we further our understanding of how to best protect our natural environment, we ask that you too protect the Bay.

Learn more! See our flipbook on Watershed to Bay.


10 things you should not flush

No matter if the label says "disposable" or "flushable," never flush these items:

  1. flushable wipes (they’re not so flushable!)

  2. sanitary napkins, tampons and applicators

  3. diapers

  4. condoms

  5. paper towels and rags

  6. hair

  7. dental floss

  8. cigarette butts

  9. kitty litter and doggy waste bags

  10. expired or unwanted medicines

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.

"I grew up flushing old pills down the toilet. Now I know that medications can pollute the Bay so I bring my expired pills to a drop box."

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Flushing expired or unwanted medications down the toilet can harm the San Francisco Bay. The best way to safely get rid of your expired and unwanted medicines is to discard of them at a free EBMUD disposal bin. Find a collection site near you. 

"We used to flush our wipes, but they clogged our toilet. Now we throw them away."

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Although they say flushable, wipes can clog pipes. These clogs can cause sewage to back up and overflow in your home or neighborhood. Remember to flush only the 3 Ps - poop, pee and paper. Wipes belong in the trash, not the toilet. Watch the video below to find out more about how wipes clog pipes.

"I love to cook for my family. That's why I keep fats, oils and grease out of my sink and in the compost."

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Fats, oils and grease from cooking belong in the compost - not the sink! When fats, oils and grease (FOG) are washed down the drain they can solidify in your pipes and cause sewage backups in your home, business or neighborhood. Sewage can enter the San Francisco Bay from there. Keep your sink running clean so you can keep cooking amazing meals. 

You can drop off your used cooking FOG at the EBMUD wastewater treatment plant for recycling. EBMUD also helps restaurants and other food facilities control grease. Get more information:

Microplastics research

Microplastics2.pngMicroplastics are tiny particles of plastic five millimeters or smaller that are present in beauty products, synthetic clothing, plastic bags, polystyrene foam packaging, and disposable plastic items. Microplastics enter sewer systems through drains and washing machines. Though some are removed in wastewater treatment plants, some pass through and pollute the San Francisco Bay. Wildlife can mistake microplastics for food, causing exposure to pollutants within the plastics or absorbed from their surroundings.

EBMUD has partnered with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and non-profit 5 Gyres, which are conducting pioneering research into this emerging issue. A better understanding of the problem in the Bay will lead to better solutions to this complex challenge. For more information, visit SFEI.org/rmp.

Dispose of paint, motor oil and other household hazardous wastes properly

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.

Be careful with car care

Wash your car at a professional or "do it yourself" 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 directly into the bay. Also, make sure to dispose of automotive fluids at a recycling center or household hazardous waste facility. Automotive fluids should never go down any drain. Instead, use the recycling search tool at BayWise to find a nearby disposal location.