District News Articles


    What exactly happens after you flush? It might be something you've never considered, or it might be a question you've never had the guts to ask. Either way, it's one of life's little curiosities: what happens to our waste after we flush the toilet, take a shower, wash clothes or wash dishes? Where does it go?


    It is true that most of us want to know little more about our sewer system than that if functions properly when we drain the sink or flush the toilet. It is, however, an important part of our everyday lives and can be personally traumatic and environmentally damaging when it does not work properly.


    When you flush, the wastewater moves through your private sewer service line until it reaches the District owned and maintained sewer main in the street adjacent to your property. That pipe joins others, and then even more until they connect with one of the District outfall sewer lines where waste flows collect and move north to the Littleton-Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant which is located next to the South Platte River.


    The goal of any wastewater treatment plant is the same: to change contaminated water into water that is safe to be discharged back into the environment. Wastewater entering a sewage treatment plant may be contaminated with physical debris such as cans or bottles, chemical pollutants like household cleaners, and biological contaminants, including the pathogens from our waste. All these contaminants must be removed before the water is considered clean and non-toxic. To this end, wastewater will go through various stages.


    The first stage can be thought of as the "settling" stage. Wastewater is placed in very large sedimentation tanks where sludge settles to the bottom and grease and oils rise up to the top. The sludge is removed so that it can be separately processed, and the grease and oil are skimmed away. The end result is a homogenous liquid that moves into the secondary stage of treatment.


    A secondary treatment stage removes the biological contaminants that are polluting the water, or at least reduces them to an acceptable level. Quite simply, this is done by exposing the water to various types of bacteria that literally eat the pathogens out of the water. There are different types of processes to accomplish this, but the majority of wastewater treatment plants use aerobic processing. This means that the bacteria need oxygen in order to break down the pathogens in the water. In aerobic processing, the water will need to be aerated so as to provide sufficient oxygen to the bacteria.


    The final stages of treatment can consist of a number of other processes that further “clean” the wastewater. Some examples of these treatments might include filtering the water to further remove any suspended matter, reduction of biological or chemical contaminants, and if the wastewater has a high level of nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus, then it may need to undergo further treatment to remove the excess nutrients so as to prevent algal blooms once the water is released back into the South Platte River. Excessive algae growth on water is a problem because it deoxygenizes the water to the point that fish and other wildlife can't survive.


    You may be wondering what happens to the sludge that was removed in the first step of the process. Sludge is decomposed by bacteria, similar to the bacteria that remove pathogens from wastewater in secondary treatment. This decomposition can be either aerobic or anaerobic, but the purpose is always the same: to reduce the volume of matter and to reduce the number of pathogens in the material that could cause disease. Disposal of the finished sludge varies. Traditionally, most wastewater treatment plants truck the material to a landfill and dispose of it. But in addition to this, the Littleton-Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant sells (or donates) the material to Colorado farms and to Colorado State University which, in turn, turn the sludge into fertilizers that can be applied to farmland.


    Wastewater treatment isn't something that many of us care to consider, but it is a very necessary process. In developing countries where wastewater treatment isn't regulated, there are devastating effects to the environment and public health caused by exposure to contaminated water. Bow Mar (responsible for collecting and transporting wastewater) and Littleton (through their role in the Wastewater Treatment Plant) work together to provide worry-free service to you.


    As a service to Bow Mar customers, Platte Canyon Water and Sanitation District has prepared an informational brochure on your sanitary sewer service, “What You Should Know About Your Sewer System”. This brochure includes a brief explanation of what your sewer system does and how it works and how to determine if you have a sewer line problem. In also includes important information of sewer service line ownership and maintenance responsibilities, how to avoid sewer repair scams, and the importance of obtaining sewer backup insurance coverage.


    If you would like to obtain a FREE copy of this brochure you can stop by the District office located at 8739 W. Coal Mine Ave., Littleton, CO 80123 or you can call (303) 979-2333 to request a copy of the brochure be mailed to you.


    If you have any questions about your sewer service line or the wastewater treatment process, please call Scott Hand, Platte Canyon’s Operations Supervisor at (303) 979-2333.