The waste we produce—whether as a byproduct of manufacturing or in our daily household lives—isn’t limited to solids. Liquid waste presents its own share of hazards, comes in a variety of forms and compositions and requires its own set of solutions for handling it safely and mitigating its potential harm to our health and environment.
Types of Liquid Waste
Liquid waste, as a broad category, includes many hazardous or undesirable fluids, ranging from wastewater and used oil to residual pesticides and cleaning agents. For most purposes, though, liquid waste can be divided into a few subcategories based on source and possible composition:
- Sewage is wastewater produced by a community and generally transported through municipal sewers from households and public buildings. This wastewater can be further divided into blackwater, which contains human waste and pathogens that thrive off of it, and greywater, which comes from other streams such as dishwashers, laundry or sinks. Greywater is also sometimes called sullage to distinguish it from blackwater, which is then called sewage.
- Effluent is wastewater discharged from an industrial facility. This term may also be used to describe the water leaving a treatment plant, and depending on the degree of treatment this water may still be considered liquid waste.
- Runoff is water from rain, lakes or streams that flows over the ground’s surface rather than seeping into the soil to become groundwater. When it accumulates waste products, runoff can itself be classified as liquid waste.
How is Liquid Waste Managed?
All liquid waste must be treated before it re-enters the water cycle in order to prevent harm to local wildlife or to the people of the community. Sewage generally enters a community water treatment plant via the local sewer system, but not all liquid waste can undergo the same treatment. Liquid waste produced at an industrial facility, construction site, drilling rig or quarry often includes more serious contaminants than what comes from a typical household, for instance. Additionally, the contents of a septic tank, whether for a residential or commercial building, aren’t sufficiently treated within the anaerobic environment therein. In cases like this, waste fluid hauling services are necessary to keep this waste from contaminating groundwater or entering local water sources.
Where is Your Wastewater Going?
Within your household, most liquid waste comes from everyday activities and can be easily managed by sewer systems. However, some discretion is important. You should be mindful of what goes into your wastewater and avoid disposing of harmful cleaners down the drain whenever possible. If you have a septic tank, make sure it’s regularly emptied by professionals. Finally, make sure not to overdo it with pesticides, herbicides and other substances—odds are, excess chemicals will get washed away in runoff or seep into groundwater.