Stuff We Can't Treat

Treatment/reclamation facilities for domestic wastewater are not equipped to treat oil, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and other hazardous materials. Wastewater treatment/reclamation depends on bacteria present in the system to break down the sewage. Inorganic or hazardous materials may destroy the bacteria, reducing the effectiveness of the sewage treatment/reclamation process. Also, this material passes through the wastewater treatment/reclamation facility and ends up in our rivers, creeks and streams.

Please do not pour the following down either a sewer or storm drain

  • Motor Oil
  • Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products or PPCPs
  • Hazardous Products

Oil and Wastewater Don't Mix

Recently, while performing routine sewer line maintenance, the equipment operators noticed an oil drainage pan lying upside down on top of a manhole in one of the subdivisions the District serves. Sure enough, when they flushed the line, a dark, oily patch of water passed through the downstream manhole.

Treatment/reclamation facilities for residential wastewater are not equipped to treat oil. Wastewater treatment depends on bacteria present in the system to breakdown the sewage. If oil is added to the system, it may destroy the bacteria, reducing the effectiveness of the sewage treatment process. Also, oil may pass through the wastewater treatment/reclamation facility and end up in our rivers, creeks and streams. Used oil is insoluble, slow to degrade, and very sticky which poses a health threat to humans, plants, animals and the environment.

Used oil is a valuable resource.  It can be recycled and reused. Protect our water supply by taking it to a recycling facility. Commercial drop off sites include:

  • O'Reilly Auto Parts
  • Jiffy Lube
  • AutoZone
  • Conley Road Wal Mart

The Problem with Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs)

Water pollution caused by chemicals focuses mainly on pesticides, fertilizers, and other agricultural and industrial wastes. But there is growing concern among scientists and water quality experts over the effect of chemicals found in every household, in most every purse, in all our bathroom and kitchen cabinets and on our laundry room shelves. These chemicals are pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

PPCPs are showing up in our lakes and streams and even our drinking glass. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey tested 139 rivers in 30 states. Eighty percent of streams sampled showed evidence of drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes.

Obvious sources of pharmaceuticals are the pharmaceutical industries, hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as animal feeding operations where antibiotic and hormone use is prevalent. However, households contribute a sizeable share.  Who hasn't flushed unwanted medication down the toilet?

The problem with flushing PPCPs is that wastewater treatment/reclamation plants are not designed to remove low concentrations of synthetic pollutants. Wastewater treatment/reclamation removes biodegradable organic material. PPCPs can pass intact through conventional sewage treatment/reclamation facilities, into waterways, lakes and even our ground water

So what can you do to reduce the amount of PPCPs going down the drain at your house? When it comes to personal care products, look for brands that are biodegradable or made of natural ingredients.

What should I do with leftover medications?

When it comes to unused medications, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services encourage the following:

  • To destroy liquid medications: Open the container and pour the medication over/into an absorbent material such as kitty litter or paper products and dispose of in the regular trash just prior to pick-up.
  • To destroy tablets and capsules: Pour a small amount of cleaning fluid, such as liquid detergent, ammonia or bleach in the bottles with the medication and then dispose of in the regular trash just prior to pick-up.
  • Remove the patient name from any medicine containers. Place all containers in a sealed outer bag or box with no label.


Hazardous Waste is Harmful to Wastewater Treatment/Reclamation Facilities

Please do not pour oil, chemicals, paint or any other toxic material down the drain. These products require special disposal and treatment.

Natural biological processes treat the waste in the water from your bathroom, kitchen and laundry. These processes are ineffective in breaking down chemicals, oil and paint. Furthermore, these materials disrupt the treatment/reclamation process by killing the bacteria that break down organic waste.

Also, please do not dispose of these materials in storm sewers or by pouring them onto the ground where they can find their way to wells and other sources of drinking water.

Take your paint and spray cans, your used car oil, your pharmaceuticals, and your leftover lawn and garden chemicals, etc., to the

City of Columbia Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off 
1313 Lakeview Avenue, Columbia
Phone: 573-874-6291
Days/Hours: This site is open on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, April to November, from 9am to 1pm.
Web Link:

Materials Collected / Services Offered:

  • Auto: Antifreeze, Brake Fluid, Transmission Fluid, Used Motor Oil
  • Batteries: NiCd Batteries, Other Batteries, Rechargeable Batteries (non-NiCd), Single-use Batteries
  • Electronics: Electronics (check web site for specific items), Inkjet Cartridges, Toner Cartridge
  • Household Hazardous Waste: Adhesives, Ammunition, Degreasers, Explosives, Fertilizers, Fluorescent Light Bulb Disposal, Fungicides, Gasoline and Unwanted Fuels, Herbicides, Household Cleaners, Insecticides, Mercury Containing Items, Paint Recycling, Paint Thinners, Pesticides, Photographic Chemicals, Pool Chemicals, Smoke Detectors, Solvents, Unwanted or Outdated Medications.*

* Pouring any of the liquid wastes noted above down a storm or sanitary sewer drain has negative effects on water quality. Please dispose of these materials properly and join the effort to improve water quality and protect public health.