We had some people over last night, and this morning as I was pouring three almost-full beers down the drain, I wondered, is this bad for the environment? I don't pour toxic cleaners or medications down the drain. Help me!
- Alex, Silverthorne
As you know, though toxic in large quantities, beer is a valuable commodity. We recommend that you drink the beer as penance for inviting people over to your house who left three full beers. Seriously though, there is nothing wrong with pouring it down the drain. We consulted our local scientists, sewage treatment experts and beer drinkers and have concluded that other than dumping a tractor-trailer load full of beer down the drain (and who would do such a thing), it won't hurt the sewage treatment plant. There are a lot of substances that should not be poured down the drain, but beer is not one of them. But this brings up an important point.
We are slowly raising the community consciousness for the harm that flushing items like pharmaceuticals can have to our aquatic systems. Medications flushed down the drain end up in our lakes, streams and water supplies. A vast array of pharmaceuticals, including regular over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, antibiotics, anti-consultants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones, have been found in U.S. drinking-water supplies. It is work for our water treatment centers to remove these items from the water system.
While you're at it, don't dump toxic chemicals, cleaners, paints, stains, etc. in the sink either. These should be taken to our Household Hazardous Waste disposal program at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park. Questions about where to take stuff? Give us a call at (970) 668-5703. We field approximately three to 3,000 of these calls a day, so don't worry if you're not sure where to take your weird household stuff, you are not the only one.
Pharmaceuticals can be taken for free to our local City Markets in Breckenridge and Dillon. Any over-the-counter medications, vitamins and prescription medications should be taken to these drop sites and not flushed down the toilet or sink. If you are reading this as a good reason to be worried about our water supply and buy bottled water instead, think again!
A simple carbon filter hooked to your faucet will do the trick to effectively get rid of any emerging contaminants. Bottled water is not the answer. There are actually fewer regulations governing bottled water, so there is no guarantee you are drinking higher quality water than from your tap.
Although it's true that plastic bottles can be recycled, it's an energy- intensive process and in most cases, plastic bottles must be down-cycled to materials that can no longer be recycled, like plastic lumber, carpet and fleece. Knowing that plastic chemicals can leach into the water supply, why would you want water in a plastic bottle anyway?
Thank you for your concern for the fate of your beer. It is a sad story to have to dump it down the drain, but we support your decision.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.