Department of Public Works
Division of Pure Waters
About Wastewater Treatment
At any given time in your community, people are sick with viruses, bacteria and other microscopic parasites that cause diseases. Upon defecating, urinating or vomiting, those viruses and bacteria (referred to collectively as pathogenic organisms) are released from the body exposing others to potential infection.
Water used in homes and businesses for cooking, washing, cleaning, and manufacturing also becomes contaminated, which if discharged into the environment untreated, results in the destruction of aquatic habitats such that they can no longer support life and are not safe for human contact.
Sanitary sewer systems collect this waste from homes, businesses, and industrial sources and transport it through hundreds of miles of pipelines and dozens of pumping facilities to a centralized wastewater treatment plant where contaminants are removed and pathogenic organisms are deactivated before recycling the water back into the environment.
Before modern wastewater treatment systems were common (pre-1970s), these wastes were discharged directly into streams, rivers, and lakes resulting in such catastrophic environmental and public health disasters such as the Cuyahoga River fires and the New York City Cholera epidemics.
Today, wastewater collection and treatment systems and their operators provide an invaluable service to our communities by protecting public health and the environment. These complex systems require an array of scientists, engineers, certified operators, technicians, mechanics and administrative support staff to ensure the environmental and public health benefits achieved in the past continue for future generations.
For additional information on wastewater systems and professions, we suggest the following: