Sometimes (particularly in older documents) the word sewage is used incorrectly to mean sewerage.

Sewage is domestic, municipal, or industrial liquid waste products. How it is disposed varies by the area, and the local commitment to the environment. In most developed countries, national law mandates sanitary treatment of sewage, and outfalls are regulated. Surprisingly, many quite wealthy countries have untreated outfalls directly to surface water, often causing disease, pollution and undrinkable tap water. The infrastructure that collects, transports, and treats sewage is collectively called sewerage.

Sewage may be carried directly through pipelines to outfalls, or from upstream sources via river systems. Sewage is often from storm water runoff of streets, parking lots, lawns and commercial and industrial areas. In some urban areas, sewage is carried separately in sanitary sewers while runoff from streets is carried in storm drains. Access to either of these is typically through a manhole. The water in such sanitary sewers and storm drains is also commonly called backwater when flow blockages cause the pipeline contents to backflow in areas where it is not desired.

Sewage may drain directly into major watersheds with minimal or no treatment. When untreated, sewage can have serious impacts on the quality of an environment and on the health of people. Pathogens can cause a variety of illnesses. Some chemicals pose risks even at very low concentrations and can remain a threat for long periods of time because of bioaccumulation in animal or human tissue.

The solution is sewage treatment.

Composition of sewage

Sewage contains mineral, animal and vegetable matter in suspension, as well as large numbers of bacteria and (eggs of) intestinal parasites. It may contain paper, food, grease, cigarettes, leaves, faeces, and urine.

Other items that occasionally are flushed down toilets include child care-related waste (such as disposable diapers, training pants, baby wipes, bibs, pacifiers, and outgrown clothing), feminine hygiene materials (tampons and pantiliners), used condoms, medical waste from hospitals, and industrial chemicals.

Some items are disposed of in the sewage system for illicit purposes. Drugs are often disposed of this way in a raid, as are legitimate medications at the end of their useful life.

In some prisons, inmates flush blankets down the powerful vacuum suction toilets in vain hopes of amusement caused by a clogged line. Children are known to also flush car keys, wallets, toys, jewelery, and stuffed animals down the toilet.

Some deceased pets are also flushed down the toilet at the end of their life. Usually reserved for fish and rodents, this kind of ceremony is sometimes (incorrectly) dubbed the "Viking Funeral".

Sewage odors are unacceptable to most people. In a confined space such as a manhole or lift station housing, toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide may be concentrated to dangerous levels, requiring special breathing apparatus and rescue apparatus for workers who must enter such spaces. A special hazard of hydrogen sulfide is that it becomes odorless at high concentrations. Another dangerous gas that can form in sewers is methane, which is explosive within certain limits.

See also

Topics related to waste edit  (
Compost | Dustbins | E-waste | Garbage truck | Garbology | Greywater | Incineration | Landfill | Pollution
Radioactive waste | Recycling | Sewage | Scrap | Sewage treatment | Toxic waste | Waste management

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