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Water-carried wastes, in either solution or suspension, that flow away from a community. Also known as wastewater flows, sewage is the used water supply of the community. It is more than 99.9% pure water and is characterized by its volume or rate of flow, its physical condition, its chemical constituents, and the bacteriological organisms that it contains. Depending on their origin, wastewaters can be classed as sanitary, commercial, industrial, or surface runoff.
The spent water from residences and institutions, carrying body wastes, ablution water, food preparation wastes, laundry wastes, and other waste products of normal living, are classed as domestic or sanitary sewage. Liquid-carried wastes from stores and service establishments serving the immediate community, termed commercial wastes, are included in the sanitary or domestic sewage category if their characteristics are similar to household flows. Wastes that result from an industrial process or the production or manufacture of goods are classed as industrial wastes. Their flows and strengths are usually more varied, intense, and concentrated than those of sanitary sewage. Surface runoff, also known as storm flow or overland flow, is that portion of precipitation that runs rapidly over the ground surface to a defined channel. Precipitation absorbs gases and particulates from the atmosphere, dissolves and leaches materials from vegetation and soil, suspends matter from the land, washes spills and debris from urban streets and highways, and carries all these pollutants as wastes in its flow to a collection point. Discharges are classified as point-source when they emanate from a pipe outfall, or non-point-source when they are diffused and come from agriculture or unchanneled urban land drainage runoff.
Wastewaters from all of these sources may carry pathogenic organisms that can transmit disease to humans and other animals; contain organic matter that can cause odor and nuisance problems; hold nutrients that may cause eutrophication of receiving water bodies; and may contain hazardous or toxic materials. Proper collection and safe, nuisance-free disposal of the liquid wastes of a community are legally recognized as a necessity in an urbanized, industrialized society. See Sewage treatment