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Municipal Sanitary Sewer

Cornell University Industrial Pretreatment Permit 

The University would not be able to operate without its partnership with Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF). Although campus does have its own water supply with the water filtration plant, campus does not have its own wastewater treatment facility. Cornell University is permitted to discharge to IAWWTF through an industrial pretreatment permit. Laboratories, campus facilities, dorms, and dining halls all send their wastewater for this facility to treat. It is imperative that we abide by the parameters set forth in our permit in order for us to maintain the privilege of having waste treatment provided and protect the facility from upsets which would ultimately harm the community and the surrounding environment (Cayuga Lake).

IAWWTF is a conventional waste activated sludge system, with the addition of an anaerobic digester where methane is captured for energy to help operate the facility. Healthy bacteria are necessary in the proper digestion of both the aerobic and anaerobic processes. Chemicals from laboratories can harm the bacteria population if the pH is too high or low or toxic to the organisms. Flammable liquids can build up in areas of the sewer, causing risk of explosion. Oils, greases or other viscous material can be difficult for bacteria to digest and cause fouling in the system. More information about IAWWTF can be found here.

The University has one permitted pretreatment system with IAWWTF that allows for neutralization of corrosive wastes prior to discharge to the sewer. Any other means of dilution or neutralization that is not performed within the process of the procedure or experiment is prohibited. These wastes should be properly containerized and disposed of as hazardous waste. Failure to do so is a violation of the IAWWTF - CU Pretreatment permit and USEPA Hazardous Waste regulations. The university also record maintenance and clean outs of grease traps in dining halls and oil water separators across campus as part of the pretreatment permit.

Drain Disposal Guidelines

Consulting the SDS of any material should be the first step in determining the best means of disposal. CU EHS should be contacted through askEHS or Appendix B - Disposal of Nonhazardous Laboratory Waste Down The Sanitary Sewer for Ithaca Campus should be consulted if there are any questions as to if a material should be drain disposed or packaged and picked up as hazardous waste. A quick list, below, of commonly ordered chemicals through chemical stores can be referenced for materials that may or may not be eligible for drain disposal.

Chemical Name

Drain Dispose

Waste Pick Up (Hazardous or Other)

Global Harmonization System Classification
Acetone x Flammable
Ethanol x Flammable
Methanol x Flammable
Acetonitrile x Flammable
Ethyl Acetate x Flammable
Isopropyl Alcohol x Flammable
Flushing & Pump oils x *these wastes cannot be drain disposed because of viscosity
Silicone & Mineral Oils x *these wastes cannot be drain disposed because of viscosity
Glycerol x
Ether Anhydrous x Flammable, Health Hazard
N-Pentane x Flammable, Health Hazard, Irritant, Damaging to Environment
Acetic Acid x Flammable, Corrosive
Hydrochloric Acid x Corrosive
Nitric Acid x Oxidizing, Corrosive
Sulfuric Acid x Corrosive
Hydrogen Peroxide x Oxidizing

Campuses and Facilities Outside of Ithaca Main Campus

All other facilities should consider the type of sewage treatment for their facility, whether discharging to a municipal treatment works or septic system. If you are unsure of how your facilities' sanitary waste or other water discharges are handled, please contact the Water Compliance Specialist or askEHS.

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