This project was funded by agreement LC00A00394 awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency  to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.  NEIWPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee.  Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under agreement LC00A00394 to NEIWPCC, it has not undergone the Agency’s publications review process and therefore viewpoints expressed here may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.  The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, the LCBP Steering Committee, or EPA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

Don't Flush It!

Thanks to a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program, GMWEA is producing a series of four informational brochures, to be sent to every city and town in Vermont.  Delivered to ratepayers with water/sewer or property tax bills, the brochures – along with website/blog postings and other media coverage – will inform Vermont households about how to reduce their outputs of ecosystem-damaging chemicals/materials and how to dispose of them properly. 

We invite all Vermont municipalities and nonprofit organizations to help put the brochure into the hands of residents -- see FAQs below for details. Simply by changing the way they use their wastewater systems, all Vermonters can help protect the state's natural waters and reduce their water/sewer costs! 

The first three brochures in the "Don't Flush It!" series are now available!  5,000 printed copies of the third brochure, "Lawn & Garden Poisons!" are now available, free, to participating towns in March, 2020! Contact to request copies!

Just released!  "Volume 3: LAWN & GARDEN POISONS!" offers tips for limiting your household's contribution of pesticides and chemical fertilizers -- which can run off your property, endangering human health and causing death and deformity in wildlife.  Lots of great advice and links to more strategies to safely control every problematic critter and plant.  To download a print-ready PDF of "LAWN & GARDEN POISONS!",CLICK HERE.

"Volume 1: CLOGGERS!" is a guide to saving money and hassle, and protecting the environment, by knowing what NOT to flush, pour, or spill into your private septic tank or municipal sewer system -- fats, oils, greases, and various paper and plastic materials that clog pipes and impair system performance.  To download a print-ready PDF of "CLOGGERS!", CLICK HERE.

"Volume 2: DRUGS!" details the harmful impacts on both human and ecosystem health of flushing or pouring out medications of any kind, and provides advice for safe disposal.  It also notes the risks of personal care products (PCPs) -- consumer products for body care and comfort that contain unnatural chemicals -- and suggests ways people can minimize their water pollution impact.  To download a print-ready PDF of "DRUGS!",CLICK HERE.

For a helpful guide to printing and folding, CLICK HERE.

The brochures are produced with graphics designs created by Castleton University's Content Lab and technical advice from many expert contributors.

Why this information is important: 

Most of us are familiar with the damaging effects of phosphate pollution and e. coli contamination in Vermont’s lakes.  Unfortunately, our contribution of pollutants doesn’t end there. The typical Vermont household flushes, pours, spills, or spreads a wide range of other harmful materials and chemicals:

  • Fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) such as bacon grease and frying oils clog pipes, pumps, and tanks;
  • Fibrous materials such as paper towels, tampons, Q-Tips, dental floss, hair, and so-called “flushable” wipes cause treatment system blockages that are expensive to repair;
  • Solid objects such as tampon applicators and cigarette butts, and plastic films such as product wrappers also cause clogs;
  • PPCPs – pharmaceuticals and personal care products -- such as antibiotics, anti-microbials, birth control pills, insect repellent, hair dyes, and laundry products end up in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, harming aquatic ecosystems;
  • Chemicals used in the garage, lawn, and garden – degreasers, solvents, waxes, paints, antifreeze, fertilizers, insecticides, and weed-killers -- wreak havoc in aquatic ecosystems, causing animal deformities and upsetting food chains.  

In homes with private septic systems, these contaminants impair system effectiveness and enter groundwater flow; also, when private septic tanks are pumped, the material is often taken to a municipal plant for treatment (see following).

Homes on town/city sewers release these contaminants directly to the inflows of their public wastewater treatment facilities.  The FOGs and solid materials cause blockages, requiring repairs and costing taxpayers money.  Many of the harmful chemicals cannot be detected or removed by facilities, so too many end up – invisible, but damaging – in our natural waters.

The only remedy is to prevent them from entering the water in the first place.  That means we, as individuals, need to learn what NOT to allow into our wastewater (and stormwater), and how to properly dispose of pollutants.

GMWEA invites all Vermont municipalities and solid waste districts to participate by helping distribute the brochures!  These FAQs explain how it works: 

Q: How much does it cost?
A: It's free!  GMWEA will supply the graphic layouts for brochures without charge.  Each municipality will need to pay for printing the brochures (one standard letter size page, black and white or color) on its office printers or using a local copying service. (Note: The program budget includes funds for GMWEA to print 20,000 brochures -- 5,000 of each brochure -- for municipalities which wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate.  See below.)

Q: What outreach activities and materials will GMWEA provide?

  1. Four ready-to-print brochures, each detailing one of the subsets of contaminants listed above and providing instructions for best-practice disposal methods.
  2. Four digital graphic pages that cities, towns, and other nonprofit entities can post on their sites; the pages will also be hosted on, allowing cities and towns to simply post links to them.
  3. Conventional media coverage through extensive press communications.
  4. Social media outreach on website, blog, Facebook, and other platforms.

Q: When did the program start?  How long will it run?
A: The first brochure and web-available graphics were made available in June, 2019. Since then, scores of cities and towns have printed and distributed the brochures or posted them on websites and bulletin boards. The fourth and final brochure will be available in May, 2020.

Q: How can my town participate?
A: Contact GMWEA executive director Daniel Hecht at
dan.hecht@gmwea.orgor (802) 595-0997 to learn more and to sign up.

Q: What is expected of participating cities/towns?

  1. Municipalities will receive the brochures as ready-to-print PDF files or format of choice. (Four to eight selected towns -- with municipal wastewater systems and between 600 and 1,500 ratepayers) may request pre-printed brochures.) Municipalities may then print the brochures and insert them into their next sewer/water bill or property tax bill mailing, or distribute them by other means. Ideally, dependent on billing schedules, this will be done every three months for one year.
  2. Cities and towns may opt to print a few copies for distribution in town offices, and may post the downloadable PDF brochures on their websites.  
  3. GMWEA will conduct press and social media outreach, but municipalities are encouraged to post news of the initiative on Front Porch Forum and other local media platforms.
  4. Brochure recipients will be asked to tell us what they did with the materials, how many households received them, and any feedback received from residents.  This information will help GMWEA and other organizations develop effective future outreach projects throughout the region.

Contact GMWEA executive director Daniel Hecht at or (802) 595-0997 for more information or to sign up! 

GMWEA thanks our fiscal agent for the project, Vermont League of Cities and Towns; the Lake Champlain Basin Program; New England Interstate Pollution Control Council; the U.S. EPA, original source of the funding; and Castleton University's wonderful Content Lab.

89 Main St., Suite 4, Montpelier, VT 05602