Editorial | Water worries

Good grief. You think people would know better.

The news last week that a pump broke down in Bellevue, dumping raw sewage into the Meydenbauer Slough, which flows into Lake Washington, is grim. Officials from the King County Wastewater Treatment division said that rags, wipes and trash that ensnared pumping equipment at King County’s Bellevue Pump Station (on May 10) contributed to a 15,000-gallon raw sewage overflow. The culprit? People. People flushing everything from wipes, diapers and bulky paper and plastic items, some of which are surprisingly labeled flushable, down the toilet.

When a topic like this comes up, people usually smirk or chuckle, considering the source of such breakdowns. But this is no laughing matter to those who maintain these systems or to state ecologists who are alarmed about the growing frequency of these events. The same thing has happened at least twice in the past several months on Mercer Island.

Not only do these pump failures pollute our lake, but end up costing cities and counties a good deal of money to repair pumps and clean up the spill. Ironically, as we move toward a greener, more sustainable future by composting and recycling, something has been left out. We need to be concerned about how we get rid of these so-called disposable items. Items flushed down the toilet can cause havoc on our lakes and streams. I bet many of us do not realize where the water is discharged after it is processed. It does not disappear.

Utility officials are clearly frustrated. King County’s Christie True said the overflow was an important reminder to the public to keep trash out of the toilet.

“Toilet paper is the only product that’s safe to flush. Everything else should be bagged and put in the trash.”

In our efforts to reduce waste in the landfills and in the air, let’s remember to protect our streams, lakes and ultimately our own water supplies.

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