Have you ever thought about where the water goes when you take a shower, wash the dishes or even flush the toilet?

Probably not too often, but we're happy that most folks don't have to think about the sewer system very much.

Sometimes, though, it's a good idea to remind everyone that money isn't the only thing that shouldn't be sent down the drain.

Like waste-water treatment plants throughout the world, our own water-reclamation facility in Canal Winchester has experienced some problems as a result of trash, grease and other substances being sent through the system.

In fact, we spend more than $20,000 each year to remove unflushable items from our pump stations, and in the last decade, we've had to spend approximately $300,000 to either purchase or repair equipment in order to tackle the problem.

Kitchen culprits

When you're cooking, it might be tempting to send excess grease down the kitchen sink; however, doing so can result in a huge, and often very expensive, problem.

Fats, oils and greases accumulate in the sewer and can lead to flooded basements, clogged pipes and damaged equipment.

Grease never should be washed down the drain; it should be poured into a container and then thrown away instead.

Grease isn't the only food waste that's bad for the plumbing, though. We all need to make sure to keep things like coffee grounds and eggshells out of the drains. In addition, most food scraps can cause a problem so the best practice is to keep as much food waste out of the pipes as possible.

If you have a garbage disposal, use it sparingly and consider putting a strainer in the sink drain to help catch food scraps.

Avoid the rush to flush

Advice about sending unsuitable items down the drain applies in the bathroom as well.

Flushing such items as wipes (even if they're marketed as "disposable"), diapers, feminine hygiene products and plastics can cause major problems. A good rule of thumb is that the only things that should ever be flushed down a toilet are water, toilet paper and human waste. Other items should be disposed of in the trash rather than in the toilet.

What about medicine?

Flushing medication down the toilet may seem like an easy way to dispose of it; however, doing so is not only prohibited by EPA rulings and city ordinance, but eventually sends the medicine into rivers and lakes.

The results can be detrimental to fish, wildlife and ultimately humans.

Whether its vitamins, antibiotics or other prescription drugs, including opioids, medicines can disrupt the ecosystem and cause significant damage. There have been reports that flushed medications can even alter endocrine function in fish, leading to irregular populations and breeding difficulties.

If you have unused medicine, we encourage you to dispose of it properly. One option is to drop it off during a Prescription Drug Take Back event. Another alternative might be to use one of the recently developed drug-deactivation bags, which require only that the medicine be put into the bag, mixed with some water, then sealed and thrown in the trash.

The bags were designed to offer a way to conveniently neutralize most pills, liquids and patches. The bags are available in many locations in central Ohio, including our community center.

These types of programs and products not only help keep unused prescription medicine out of the wrong hands but also out of the sewer system. We appreciate everyone's help in preventing harm to your pipes, our pipes, the water reclamation facility and also the environment.

The city's water-reclamation division operates and maintains a 2.48 million gallons per day extended aeration water-reclamation facility and wastewater collection system that consists of 58 miles of sewer mains, 11 sewage pump stations and 1,195 manholes.

Steven Smith is the water-reclamation superintendent for the city of Canal Winchester.