4A. One Day Drain Challenge, Calgary, Kelsey S.

Environment   Oct 20, 2018 by Kelsey Stephen

After doing the one day drain challenge it has definitely opened my eyes to how much I actually use the drains in my household, at school and at work. For the whole day, I recorded in my journal how many times I used the drains, what the purpose of each use was and what products were being swept away. Honestly this challenge made me feel very embarrassed because I realized how much water I waste and how many things I wash off my hands that may be harmful to my watershed. There were quite a few hand washes that I could have avoided and I am going to start to make the effort to shorten the length of my showers. I used a water use calculator and I discovered that I used approximately 113 gallons of water in one day, 75 in the shower, 20 from using the toilet and 18 from running the faucets. 

It started to concern me once I became aware of the things going down my drain. There were obvious things like human waste and water, leftover food etc. There were also manmade products I was putting down the drain by showering or washing my hands like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, makeup, facial cleanser, face cream and hair products. All of this could be ending up in the river after it leaves the water treatment plant and I have never really considered that before, it has kind of escaped my everyday decision making. These chemicals from these items could change the pH of the water or be ingested by animals, sink into the sediment along the bottom or be absorbed by the soil in the banks of the river. Washing my hands has a much wider affect than I ever thought before. 

Here in Calgary there are 3 treatment plants which filter the waste water using clarifiers, bioreactors, disk filters, and uv disinfection before returning the water to the Bow River. Bio solids are removed and turned into compost. This process is for the most part efficient but only for liquids. Solids however are all removed together. This means if there are tiny pieces of plastic like daily use contacts (which I am guilty of flushing down the toilet a few times) or microfibres from synthetic fabrics can either get trapped in the solids and then dispersed over land when they are converted into the compost or they aren't removed and don't get broken up during the filtration process. If they make it onto land, they can either degrade and release chemicals into the soil, be eaten by wildlife or be washed off into the nearest water source.  If they end up back in the river, they can sink to the bottom and stay in the river, be congested by marine life and even eventually make their way to the ocean. 

Overall, this challenge has made me more aware of the daily pollution I produce by washing my clothes and when I do my morning and night routines. I wore for the most part cotton during this challenge, but my bottoms were made from polyester and elastane. Now that I know about the harm caused by micro plastics I will shop more wisely and avoid clothing made with plastics. I have learned where I need to cut back on my water usage and will go forward from this challenge more responsible for the impact I cause. 

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1 Comment(s)

Nov 9, 2018

When I did the drain challenge it really shocked me! I really recommend others to try it out, it's fun, interesting, and you learn so much!