Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Wed, Feb. 26

Column: Be careful with runoff, garbage disposal

Q: I was reported to the city of Prescott for discharging paint into the stormwater drain. I am withholding my name. Please make me understand what the big deal is.

A: The city of Prescott operates a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4), which means that the storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems are separate. Prescott's storm sewer system consists of primarily surface drainage; streets, right-of-ways, gutters, ditches, swales, as well as other manmade and natural stormwater conveyances. In Prescott, stormwater flows untreated into the nearest creek or lake. MS4s are regulated by the Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System to reduce the discharge of pollutants from the MS4 to protect the quality of local surface water.

All illicit discharge is the unlawful act of disposing, dumping and spilling, emitting or other discharge of any substance other than stormwater (runoff from rain or snowmelt) into the stormwater drainage system. Illicit discharges may be a risk to human health and safety, land or water quality.

Some examples of illicit discharge may include, but are not limited to, the following: oil, antifreeze and other automotive fluids, paint, household cleaners, yard waste (grass clipping, leaves), fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, trash, garbage, discharges from commercial and industrial activities, sanitary sewer discharge, septic system discharge, grey water discharges, chlorinated swimming pool and/or hot tub water.

It is important to be watershed smart and we can all help protect our local water quality. You should wash your car on an unpaved surface so that water, detergent will not run into street or storm drains. This roadway dirt, automotive fluids, etc. that get washed from the car go straight into nearby storm drains and then this water flows directly to our creeks and lakes. When you use a commercial car wash, the dirty water is filtered and treated at the wastewater treatment plant.

You should always sweep or rake up yard debris. Do not blow leaves, grass, clippings and mulch into the street, or storm drains. Dispose of household hazardous waste, used auto fluids and the designated collection or recycling centers. Do not pour these items out onto driveways, streets or ditches.

The city of Prescott has in place the 2007 Illegal Discharge and Connection Stormwater Code. This code regulates the contribution of pollutants to the storm sewer system for the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Prescott. Violations of this code may be subject to penalties of not more than $2,500 per violation per day and may be punishable by incarceration.

Q: Dear Sandy, my wife and I read your column every Friday - thank you for being our local Wikipedia girl for the construction industry. I run cold water when using the garbage disposal, my wife runs hot water. Who is right? And what is the reason for using either the hot or cold water?

A: Generally, you should use cold water when running food down the garbage disposal. If what you are disposing of is grease or fat, using hot water will basically just "liquefy" it, and then it will become a solid piece further down into the plumbing when it has cooled down. Talking with several of our plumbing partners they have all said, DO NOT PUT GREASE OR FATS into the disposal. Toss into the garbage can. Rinsing fats and grease into the disposal over and over again will surely cause an enormous and whopping plumbing problem later on.

Using hot water will just keep the grease in a liquefied state and keep in mind that running any amount of water after disposing of fats and grease into the disposal will not totally clear the grease out of your drains. What happens with the disposal is somewhat like cholesterol in the arteries - it continues to build up.

The idea of running hot water after grease is based on the faulty premise that hot water "cleans" better. Yes, hot boiling water does sterilize things, but that is not the aim when clearing grease from the drains.

I managed to get through Thanksgiving with only two emergency calls from local citizens for clogged garbage disposals. Inasmuch as we have another large family holiday coming with wonderful dinners and we all know how convenient a garbage disposal is and we like to think there is nothing that a garbage disposal cannot chomp, chew and get rid of but it is not necessarily true that there is nothing a garbage disposal cannot chomp and chew

Yes, garbage disposals have powerful motors and blade, but there are certain things you shouldn't be putting down the disposal.

Many vegetables are too stringy or fibrous to go down the disposal, getting caught in the motor and leading to a clogged drain. Vegetables like celery, rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, chard, kale, lettuce and even potato peels should not be put in the garbage disposal. These stringy, fibrous or starchy vegetables can easily wrap around the blade, clogging your drain.

Pasta expands when in contact with water and that's quite obvious when you cook it. In the garbage disposal it can continue to expand every time water goes down, ultimately clogging your drain over time. Or if it doesn't clog your drain, it will fill up the disposal trap.

Eggshells should not be put in the garbage disposal because the thin membrane on the inside of the shell can wrap itself around the blade of the disposal.

Like pasta, rice expands with water. So putting it down the garbage disposal will inevitably clog your drain, filling up the disposal's trap more and more as water goes down.

Coffee grounds, though appearing to go down the drain just fine, actually can get stuck in the trap of your garbage disposal.

It is best to toss out the above items the old-fashioned way - trash can.

Remember to tune in to YCCA's "Hammer Time" every Saturday or Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or the web Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners.

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