County Update: Commissioner Fast says investments in sewer system will improve water quality, protect environment

Commissioner Becky Fast says that recent investments, like the Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility, will have an impact on water quality and the environment.

Each week we provide a member of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners the opportunity to share an update on what issues are catching their attention. (Every member of the board is offered the same opportunity). This week, we have a column from District 1 Commissioner Becky Fast, whose district covers northeast Johnson County.

It’s easy to take the water systems that bring clean water to and from our homes and businesses for granted.

Johnson County investments to improve water quality and protect water include the Tomahawk Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility improvements, which involve building an expanded plant in Leawood to treat all tributary flows. This project will have water quality benefits for Indian Creek, as well as the downstream waters of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It will address nutrient removal as excessive nutrients can be harmful by degrading habitats and decreasing the amount of oxygen in the water.

Johnson County Wastewater (JCW) currently operates 2300 miles of sewer lines and if laid out in a straight line would connect from Kansas out to Philadelphia. JCW also manages six treatment plants. The treatment process by JCW eliminates disease-causing bacteria to protect the environment for human and aquatic life. It also removes ammonia. nitrogen and phosphorus that can be harmful to fish. These nutrients can cause excessive algae growth in streams, rivers, and lakes. The cleaned water must meet water quality requirements.

Recovering Energy from Waste

Currently enough electricity is generated by JCW to power half of the Douglas Smith Middle Basin Treatment Facility. Electricity is generated from fat and grease through using the methane gas through the digestion of restaurant fats, oil, and grease. Another innovation by JCW is using the sludge leftover after the wastewater treatment process and turning it into a soil fertilizer that is provided to local farms.

How JCW Charges are Calculated

Wastewater is used water that has been affected by human use. It can include human waste, food scraps, oils, soaps and chemicals. In homes, water that drains from sinks, showers, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers is wastewater.
Residential charges are determined by multiplying the average winter water usage (AWWU) by the rate per gallon and adding the customer service charge. AWWU avoids charging for heavier usage in summer months that do not impact the wastewater system such as watering lawns, gardens or washing cars.

Johnson County’s Backup Prevention Program (BUPP)

In the past, some Johnson County homeowners have faced the frustrating challenge of basement flooding during extremely heavy rains. Johnson County Wastewater wants to help you better protect your home during these rains through offering a Backup Prevention Program to homeowners. This program is voluntary and provides funding to eligible homeowners so they may install a backup prevention device or make plumbing modifications on their property.

The Top Ten Things to Keep Out of the Sewers

There are certain things you know you shouldn’t flush down the toilet. Our sewer systems simply weren’t built to deal with all of the products and objects that are sent down the pipes. If it’s not liquid or human waste, it’s probably best to put it in the trash rather than sending it swimming.

  • Baby wipes and diapers
  • Grease
  • Prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals
  • Hair
  • Rags and towels
  • Disposable toilet brushes
  • Syringes
  • Personal care products
  • Aquarium gravel and kitty litter
  • Cotton swabs

As your District 1 Commissioner, you can count on me to support water quality improvement projects given the critical role it plays in water safety and our community’s overall quality of life.

Consider what life would be like without the collection and treatment of wastewater once it leaves your home or business. Without this service, a devastating impact would happen to public health and the environment. Water is a precious, a finite resource, and clean water is essential to sustaining life and peoples’ most basic sanitary needs.

Next week, we’ll have a column from District 2 Commissioner Jim Allen.