Understanding the impact of wastewater and its prevalence in our daily lives is critical. Believe it or not, wastewater is a key component of what keeps our communities thriving. Not only is wastewater comprised of what goes down your drain, but in some regions, it also is recycled and treated to create the drinking water you consume every day.

Melody LaBella has always been led by her drive to protect the environment. Now with Central Contra Costa Sanitary District for nearly 24 years, she spends her days as a Resource Recovery Program Manager living out her passion. Melody spoke with us to share more about her career, her time in the wastewater industry and to tell us what behaviors consumers should be changing for the betterment of the planet.

To better educate us, Melody focused on a few things during our conversation—

1. Flushing your toilet is not a magic trick.

Despite your toilet “magically” flushing away everything within a matter of seconds after pressing the button, the reality is far from a magic trick. Only items that are flushable should be put in the toilet. By flushing non-flushable items down the toilet, it puts the entire wastewater infrastructure at risk. Paper towels, tissues, tampons, baby wipes – none of these items are flushable and need to be disposed of in a trash bin, not in the toilet. It might seem like you’re flushing just one thing, but those small things add up and can cause massive damage to the infrastructure we rely on.

2. Practicing responsible flushing habits is part of being sustainable.

While the connection between flushing habits and sustainability may not be immediately clear, the two are intricately intertwined. As mentioned, wastewater is a critical part of society’s ecosystem. Melody shared that during her education she learned, “one of the most effective things that you can do for the environment is to protect and treat the wastewater, treat it well.” At Central San, and most wastewater treatment plants, the vast majority of what comes into the plant is water. In California, water is a vital but sometimes scarce resource. It’s Melody’s job to evaluate the various sources that we can tap energy from to help keep communities running – a key resource being wastewater!

3. Every day, multiple times per day, we have the power to create a healthier life and planet.

Lastly, positive change can start with YOU! Every day, when you flush the toilet make a conscious effort to consider if you’re flushing any non-flushable items. Practice responsible flushing habits by throwing out paper towels, tampons, and baby wipes in the trash can. Look for the “Do Not Flush” symbol on packaging to understand what can and can’t break down in our wastewater systems. A healthier planet requires a group effort, and we can all start with educating ourselves on responsible flushing habits.

It’s been Melody’s life’s work to protect the planet – our home. While many of us do not have the time to learn the intricacies of how wastewater is used in our communities, we can learn to flush responsibly. Today, we challenge you to share with your friends what you’ve learned and to take the initiative to start flushing smart!