George Wrigley, Director
Cathy Fuller, Secretary
The Wastewater Utilities Department is responsible for the continuous safe, environmentally protective and financially stable operation of the sanitary sewer collection system in accordance with PaDEP and U.S EPA permits and regulations. Abington Township sanitary sewers are divided into three areas. Abington owns and operates a wastewater treatment plant located on Fitzwatertown Road, which receives flows from the western third of the township. The areas east of Edge Hill Road are conveyed directly to the Philadelphia Water Department’s (PWD) Pennypack interceptor sanitary sewer system and the southern areas of the township flow into the Cheltenham Township interceptor system, which is then conveyed to PWD for treatment.
The sewer collection system consisting of approximately 250 miles of various sized pipe, 17 pump stations and the Fitzwatertown Road treatment plant. The treatment plant average annual flow is about 2.735 million gallons per day (mgd), which is 70% of the plant’s 3.910 mgd permit capacity. The annual average flow discharging to Cheltenham Township is 1.188 MGD, which is 17% of our average daily permitted capacity of 7.176 mgd. The third drainage area flows directly to the Philadelphia Water Department’s Pennypack Interceptor. The annual average flow for the Pennypack Area was 1.610 mgd or 54% of the 2.97 mgd limit.
Please remember! NEVER flush medicines or supplements down the drain. The pills will dissolve and eventually pollute the streams and contaminate downstream drinking water intakes. A drop off site is available at the Abington Township Police Department offices to properly dispose of un-used medicines.
Public Service Announcement
Please see the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) press release regarding the flushing of disposable wipes and other items other than toilet paper.
EPA Encourages Americans to Only Flush Toilet Paper
WASHINGTON (March 30, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging all Americans to only flush toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items that should be disposed of in the trash. Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage our nation’s wastewater. While EPA encourages disinfecting your environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, never flush disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items. These easy steps will keep surfaces disinfected and wastewater management systems working for all Americans.
Preventable toilet and sewer backups can pose a threat to human health and present an extra challenge to our water utilities and their workforce. Flushing anything other than toilet paper, including disinfecting wipes, can damage internal plumbing, local sewer systems and septic systems. Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly. EPA thanks wastewater utilities and their workforce for their courageous efforts at a time when resources may be stretched thin. Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.
For more information, see https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus
Frequently Asked Questions
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Sanitary sewer pipes are small and sized only for water flow. When foreign objects such as toilet handi wipes, baby wipes, cloth rags, paper towels, plastic items, garbage from kitchen disposals and cooking oils and grease are flushed down the drain or toilet, the pipes will get clogged. These items must be disposed in the trash. Sewer backups are mostly caused by these foreign objects as well as tree roots. NEVER flush any of these objects down the drains and wipe all oil coated cookware with a paper towel and dispose in the trash prior to washing. The hot oils and grease will quickly cool and congeal in the cooler sewer pipes in the ground on your property and in the sewer main. These items will easily clog the pipes and cause a backup into your basement or first floor sinks and toilets. If these objects get into the sewer main, these pipes will also clog, creating a backup for all the properties along the street. Please respect your neighbors by not flushing these objects into the sewers to prevent blockages.
You can reduce your chance of having sewer backup damage if you:
- avoid flushing diapers, cleaning wipes, paper towels or plastic products
- minimize use of your garbage disposal and keep grease out of the drains
- disconnect floor drains and sump pumps from the sewer
- consider installing a check valve on drains located in the basement
Abington Township continually improves and maintains the sewer system both to assure proper performance now, and to preserve the integrity of the system for future users. Sewers occasionally back up during dry weather; this is generally caused by Fats, Roots, Oil and Grease (FROG).
Tree roots are attracted to sewers by the abundance of water and nutrients in sewage, and will penetrate any crack in the pipe or damaged joint to get to it. Once in the pipe, the roots expand until they fill the available space. Our maintenance program of sewer pipe flushing and sealing will keep tree roots out of mainline sewers which have had chronic root problems in the past. Large trees on your property will have roots that grow deep into the ground and will enter pipes with cracks or open joints causing a blockage. Internal televising of old sewer pipes would be a first step to check if your sewer pipe may be susceptible to roots.
During wet weather, sewers are subject to inflow and infiltration. Groundwater enters the sewer via sump pumps, holes, open joints and cracks in the pipes. The excess water overloads the capacity of the pipes, and in extreme cases may cause sewage to back up and overflow from a manhole, cleanout or a drain.
To reduce wet weather overloading, downspouts, floor drains and sump pumps must be removed from sanitary sewers. These connections are illegal, and will create a backup into your home as well as your neighbors. Sump pumps must be permanently piped out of the house to the yard, a seepage pit, or a storm sewer.
This project is being conducted as part of the Wastewater Department’s asset management efforts. The intent of the project is to locate and open each manhole for a visual inspection of the conditions of this important Township asset. This inspection is essential to maintaining the sewer system and preventing issues, such as blockages and back-ups, that may impact residential properties like yours.
Property owners may receive a letter because Township records indicate that the property is within twenty (20) feet of a sanitary sewer line and may need to be accessed from the road or through your rear yard, by Township personnel to inspect a sanitary sewer manhole. A door hanger may also be left at your home, at least three (3) days prior to the date your area is expected to be inspected.
Property owners do not need to be home for the inspection. Two to three clearly identified Township personnel will be walking along the pipeline route. Initial inspections will use no motorized equipment and will last approximately 10 minutes. If a problem is discovered, it is solely the responsibility of the Township to make repairs. Residents will be notified and provided a timeline in the event a repair is warranted. Please visit our sanitary sewer line inspection web-page for more information including related images and maps.
The sewer pipe from your home or business is connected directly to the sewer main. If the traps underneath your sinks, tubs, floor drains and in the toilets are not full of water the gasses from the sewer main will flow back into your home through the pipes. These gasses consist of hydrogen sulfide, which will cause irritation of your eyes, mouth and throat, resembling cold flu symptoms. The other major gas is methane, which is explosive when it collects in basements and closed buildings. Fill all traps and drains with water every three months and make sure all drain and sewer pipes have tight joints. If the odor continues, there may be a blockage in the sewer pipes inside your home or in the sewer line between your home and the sewer main, and you should contact a plumber.
Each building will have its own arrangement of drain pipes that may create various sounds as more than one sink or toilet is in use. Many times when a clothes washer is pumping out, the volume of water cannot drain fast enough and may create bubbling noises in other sinks or a toilet as the air in the pipes is pushed out. Similarly, when a toilet is flushed the water creates a short air pressure surge in the drain pipes that could cause bubbling in other fixtures. you should contact a plumber to investigate and flush the pipes to remove the blockage. It is recommended that you ask the plumber to internally televise the pipes to see what the problem could be, so you can properly target repairs as needed. In many circumstances there is no structural issue with the pipes, but the problem arises from grease buildup or rags collecting in the pipes, which can be flushed out.
If you and your neighbors are all experiencing backups or slow draining pipes, the sewer main is most likely blocked. If only your drains are slow or backing up, the problem is most likely inside your pipes and you should contact a plumber to investigate and flush the pipes to remove the blockage. It is recommended that you ask the plumber to internally televise the pipes to see what the problem could be, so you can properly target repairs as needed. In many circumstances there is no structural issue with the pipes, but the problem arises from grease buildup or rags collecting in the pipes, which can be flushed out. Please be cautious of contractors who immediately want to excavate and replace pipes. These major repairs are very expensive and in many circumstances are not required. As with any contracted work, it is always best to talk to a few contractors to educate yourself so you can make the best decision.
For a sink, if you can close the stopper and place something heavy on it to keep it closed this will block the water from flowing backwards. For a toilet, try to stuff a towel into the drain at the bottom of the toilet and push it tightly in place to act as a cork to block the water from flowing backwards. Do not use any other sink, toilet or washer in the home and call a plumber. If the water was overflowing only while you were using other sinks or toilets in your home, the problem is most likely within your pipes and you should call a plumber. Ask the plumber if they can power flush the pipes rather than just snake out the line. More experienced plumbers generally have several types of equipment for various problems, therefore, they would be more likely to solve your problem with just one visit. If the water was flowing backwards into your sinks or toilet even though you were not using any other sink or toilet in your home, call the Township’s emergency number at 215-884-8329.
Did you know that "disposable" cleaning wipes, such as baby wipes and flushable rags, are one of the leading causes of clogs in residential pipes? These wipes are made to be durable and subsequently do not break up in the sewer pipes causing major blockages. These blockages not only impact the home that is flushing them, but surrounding neighbors as well, and cause major back-up into your home.
These wipes are also negatively impacting the sewer system at large, and can be costly to remove and remediate. Please STOP flushing cleaning wipes down the drain!
In the Bathroom
- Make sure your toilet is an ultra-low flush model (1.6 gallons per flush).
- While waiting for shower water to get warm, catch the cold water in a container to use on your outside plants or to flush your toilet.
- Check toilet for leaks. Put dye tablets or food coloring into the tank. If color appears in the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak that should be repaired.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Also, turn off the water while shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse your razor.
In the Kitchen
- If you wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the rinse water running. If you have two sinks, wash in one and save the water as you rinse in the other. If you only have one sink, use a spray device or faucet for short periods instead of letting the water run.
- When washing dishes by hand, use the least amount of detergent possible. This minimizes rinse water needed.
- Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator.
- Don’t defrost frozen foods with running water. Plan ahead by placing frozen items in the refrigerator overnight, or else defrost them in the microwave.
- Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables. Rinse them in a filled sink or pan.
- Use the garbage disposal less and compost your organic wastes. Saves 50 to 150 gallons a month.
- Mulch around trees and plants (but not too deeply) to reduce evaporation.
- If you have a pool, use a pool cover. It will cut down on evaporation, keep your pool cleaner, and reduce the need to add chemicals.
- Water during the early morning; don’t water the lawn on windy days; cut down watering on cool and overcast days; and don’t water in the rain.
- Set lawn mower blades one notch higher. Longer grass means less evaporation.
- Xeriscape: replace your lawn and high-water using trees and plants with drought tolerant and regionally adapted plants.
- When taking your car to a car wash, be sure it’s one of the many that recycles its wash water.
- Dispose of hazardous materials and prescription medications properly.