Waste in the water? Fort Worth and Arlington trying to stop harmful sewer overflows.

Aug 13, 2020

As shoppers scooped up packs of toilet paper in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, city water departments across the country shared a similar concern: Would the toilet paper shortage lead to an influx of alternatives, including supposedly “flushable wipes” and Kleenex, and increase the number of clogs in the sewage system?

At least for water officials in Fort Worth and Arlington, the fear did not become reality. That doesn’t mean that both cities have not grappled with how to combat what are known as sanitary sewer overflows, a public health concern that involves the spilling of raw sewage into city streets or streams before it has reached a treatment facility.

Facing the double threat of fines and growing populations, water officials have taken steps in recent years to reduce the number of overflows. There are a variety of reasons why overflows take place, according to the Environmental Protection Agency: too much rainfall infiltrating the sewer system, sewer lines that do not have the capacity to carry the wastewater or a deteriorating system that has not been properly cleaned or maintained.

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