The Unsung Heroes of Holiday Revelry

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – December 18, 2015 – Comment

‘Tis the season for house guests and party after party… for letting loose and enjoying the spirit of goodwill, joy and peace. It’s a time for bountiful feasts, traditional sweets and, perhaps, a tad too much “good cheer” as society observes the holiday and rings in the New Year.

Fortunately for the average individual, the major party days and nights are followed by a day off, or at least a later start time and “slow work day.” But not so for the teams at the wastewater treatment plants – the unsung heroes of holiday revelry aftermath!

If you think about what goes down your sink and garbage disposals after a holiday gathering, that alone is enough to understand why wastewater plants and workers are in overdrive the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Factor in how many additional flushes can be heard throughout your household during festive gatherings, and the picture of the post-holiday wastewater gets even grimmer. Plus, there are more spills and clean-ups, enormous piles of dishes, and loads of table linens that need laundering along with multiple outfits for day, afternoon and evening gatherings.

Then, multiply what happens in your singular home or office by the number of restaurants, hotels and banquet facilities also hosting holiday bashes – and it’s pretty easy to see why wastewater treatment facilities require all hands on deck. And I didn’t even touch on the one ton of confetti that rains down on Times Square on New Year’s Eve! Litter washing into water runoffs also contributes to wastewater woes.

A wonderful reporter in Utah taking up the wastewater advocacy cause coined the day after Thanksgiving “Brown Friday,” a term inspired by a family member working at the local wastewater treatment plant that can be applied to many other days following a major holiday. Her series of year-long reports highlighting water challenges in her community is truly enlightening, and her Thanksgiving entry formed much of the inspiration for this blog.

Of course, neither this reporter nor I suggest all holiday fun needs to cease for the sake of water health and sustainability. But just looking at the contributing factors above and being aware is an important first step. Then, perhaps you could weave in water savings into your gift giving; give your loved ones a water efficient toilet perhaps. Nothing says I love you and appreciate you more than a 1.2 gallon flush! Or get refillable bottles as stocking stuffers. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! And even the Ebenezer Scrooges of you can get into the spirit with WaterSense water saving shower heads and faucets!  

If we can look at ways to pare down party indulgences to help alleviate stress on wastewater – while we simultaneously raise a toast (in a glass or biodegradable disposable cup) to the thousands of wastewater employees working tirelessly the morning after to keep our systems running smoothly!