News Briefs: Baby Owls Rescued From WWTP and Rehabilitated

Also in this week's water and wastewater news, a janitor working at a wastewater treatment plant in San Jose, California, tests positive for COVID-19

Staff from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) recently responded to a call from wastewater treatment plant operators in Lancashire, Great Britain, to save a pair of young tawny owls found at the facility.

According to United Press International, a worker at Wigan Wastewater Treatment Works found the owls in distress and made the call to RSPCA.

“These gorgeous owlets were small and very young,” RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Heather Cook told the news organization. “While it’s normal for young tawny owls to explore their surroundings, I was quite worried about them. One in particular was not looking too good, so I took them to a local vet to be checked over.”

After a vet checkup, the RSPCA later reported the owls had made a full recovery and were slated to be released back into the wild.

San Jose WWTP Janitor Tests Positive for COVID-19

A janitor at San Jose, California’s wastewater treatment plant has tested positive for COVID-19, according to East Bay Times. The employee was contracted to work at the facility.

The plant, which treats wastewater for 1.5 million people, now has 17 employees under a self-quarantine on the heels of the announcement.

“The staff is continuing with business as usual, although at a lower head count,” Kerrie Romanow, director of environmental services for the city of San Jose, tells East Bay Times. “We are continuing to treat wastewater.”

Five Engines Respond to WWTP Fire in Utah

A fire in a large air handler unit in the St. George (Utah) Wastewater Treatment Plant’s headworks recently drew a response from five fire engines, as firefighters quickly contained the blaze.

Firefighters accessed a roof area nearby and extinguished the fire as it burned inside the equipment — before it was able to breach any walls or spread. According to first responders, the operators on site provided crucial information about how best to access the fire and fight it.

 It’s believed to be an equipment malfunction that caused the fire, and operators say it’s possible the unit overheated due to blowers not working correctly.

Increased Use in Wipes Causing Problems for Sewers and Treatment Facilities

In other news, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants nationwide in unexpected ways, as local toilet paper shortages paired with a huge increase in the use of disinfecting wipes is leading people to improperly dispose of wipes and other items by flushing them.

In fact, the issue has gotten so bad in Redding, California, that some people are finding other ways to wipe after using the bathroom, and someone even flushed shredded T-shirts used for such a purpose.

“Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” California’s State Water Resources Control Board said recently in a public advisory. “Even wipes labeled ‘flushable’ will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment throughout the state.”

Judging by the sheer amount of similar stories and social media posts about wipes clogging processes and pipes utilities around the nation this past week, the problem so bad it’s almost universal. Here’s one such post shared by El Paso (Texas) Water:


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