Should you feel bad about using STPP?

suburbanmdAugust 28, 2009

Here's an overview of the entire phosphorus control issue:

If your wastewater discharges into a body of water not affected by eutrophication, we can probably agree that you can use STPP without feeling guilty.

Now, what if your wastewater is treated to remove phosphorus, and the treatment facility has it under control because the phosphate detergent ban has reduced the amount of phosphorus it has to handle? Your bit of STPP isn't going to pollute the water, and it won't require construction of new treatment facilities. Should you feel guilty about using STPP? Opinions might differ on this question. I'd say you shouldn't feel guilty.

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suburbanmd, where do you buy STPP? Is it on store shelves?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 12:50AM
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I got a 5 lb. pail from Price was $12.90, total cost was around double that, with shipping & handling. 5 lbs. is enough to last a long time. The pail reseals fairly easily, which is good because STPP is said to be vulnerable to deterioration from moisture.

I'm in the class of people who needn't feel guilty about using STPP, because my wastewater goes into a septic tank that isn't near any streams. Nevertheless it still feels kind of illicit to use it :-)

So far I've tried STPP only for items where my Miele's extended wash (with Sears Free powder) hasn't done a good enough job. It actually hasn't provided much if any improvement in such cases. I guess I have to try it on non-extended washes. But it's easier for me to push the Extended button than to add another product to the wash, and I don't usually mind the extra half-hour cycle time.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 10:45AM
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I also get it from the chemistry store but it doesn't last me forever, especially that small bucket. Maybe 3 months? I have two kids and I do about 15 loads of laundry a week or more and I use 1 T per load. But it works, my clothes get clean the stains come out and I don't have those mystery grease spots appear after I wash my clothes. Definitely worth it. I don't understand why it was removed from laundry detergents but not from dishwasher detergent.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 12:40PM
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IMO, dishwasher detergents still contain phosphates because it's obvious if your dishes come out dirty, unlike laundry. Same reason why dishwashers don't offer the option of washing in cold water.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 5:45PM
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Phosphates have been eliminated from dishwasher detergents in some areas, and the trend is continuing. Wal-Mart's in-house GreatValue brand, for example, is formulated both with or without depending on where it's sold.


Google search

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 7:09PM
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Yep, and even Consumer Reports isn't satisfied with the performance of phosphate-free GreatValue, and the phosphate-free versions of the Costco and Target house brands.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 9:06PM
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I don't feel bad for using it. I remember the whole thing about it when I was a kid. They made a big stink about phosphorus in lakes, but it wasn't from consumer use. It had been caused by the dumping of phosphorus and phosophurous containing products from companies and corporations directly into or very near to lakes and streams.

As long as things are used for their purpose and not wasted, things are usually kept in balance.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 7:57AM
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How much STPP do you guys recommend using in a top loading agitator washer? I've seen people say they use like half a tablespoon but for a front loader. Thanks for your help and suggestions!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 12:34AM
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From what I have read the main issue with STPP and it winding up in streams/lakes comes not from the typical consumer, but from farm runoff (where they use fertilizers and other chemicals containing phosphates I assume) and that is where most of the damage is being done...But strangely enough, I think those industries are still allowed to use STPP, but not the average household (which never was really the problem from what I read).....So the worst offender of phosphate pollution still gets to use it, while we can't unless we buy it separately from a chemistry store online. So don't feel guilty

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:03AM
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Oh, to better help answer my question about how much to use, since it depends on water hardness, after an hour of searching and using conversion tables the hardness where I'm at is 5.4 gpg which is classified as moderately hard. Thanks again for your help! :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:31AM
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It's just lovely the way you all can rationalize that you're "little bit" won't make a difference. I assume you don't bother to vote for that same reason.

Well, guess what, it does all matter. If just 10% of a major city's population used phosphates, that's 200,000 folks contributing to the decline. Assuming none of you live an evaporating pan like the Salt Flats, your water will run somewhere, eventually. You live in a watershed, even if you can't see the nearest stream.

For most of MD, the watershed leads to the Chesapeake Bay, which is STRUGGLING already. The Bay is not healthy-it can't take on new pollution without there being a detrimental effect. Additional phosphate leads to additional algal growth which cause oxygen depletion of the water. Without enough oxygen in the water, fish die, especially in summer, when people would most likely want to be enjoying the water themselves. In the Bay, increase in algae leads to decrease in bay grasses which leads to decrease in the blue crab population. It's easy to verify the poor water quality of the Chesapeake Bay-it's well monitored and results posted online.

Despite a mere 2mg/L phosphorus limit on treated wastewater, the highest phosphate concentrations of the Bay are located near areas of high population-not adjacent to farmland. Investigations discovered that several treatment plants routinely dumped raw sewage into the Bay because they were overcapacity-the plant at Centreville being the most newsworthy. Obviously, phosphorus wasn't removed from the estimated 1 million gallons of sewage Centreville dumped in 2003 alone. In addition, old septic systems do not remove phospates and many remain despite programs to replace them with new ones.

To believe that your use of phosphates would not be detrimental is ignorant. To buy phosphate to skirt the rules set to benefit our streams, rivers, bays and oceans is arrogant. When your kids can't play outside because of poor air quality and can't go to the beach because of poor water quality, it will be too late.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:55AM
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In a top loading machine we use 1-2 Tbsp of STPP for each load, depending on your water hardness.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:50PM
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riverspots, I haven't written anything resembling "my little bit won't make a difference". Rather, I'm pointing out that a tablespoon of STPP down your drain may possibly have a less-than-average effect on the watershed. If your effect is nil or almost nil, then perhaps you can use STPP without breaching your civic responsibility.

Example 1: From this article

Septic System Waste Treatment in Soil

it seems clear that phosphate emissions from properly functioning septic systems aren't an issue, in nearly all cases. The unfortunate existence of failed septic systems doesn't alter this fact, as long as your system isn't one of the failed ones.

Example 2: Referring to this link, the same article as the no-longer-valid link I posted when I started this thread:

Review of Phosphorus Control Measures in the United States and Their Effects on Water Quality

As of 1996, 25% of sewage treatment plants performed tertiary treatment, and tertiary treatment removes up to 99% of phosphorus. If you're lucky enough to have your sewage go through a plant that removes 99% of phosphorus, I'd say that your tablespoon of STPP will contribute a negligible amount of phosphate to the watershed. I don't know much about Centreville, Maryland. Hopefully they've gotten their act together by now. And if they haven't, their troubles aren't relevant to users of properly functioning treatment plants.

Example 3: If your sewage is discharged into an estuary or ocean, eutrophication may not be an issue.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 6:12PM
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They dumped raw sewage into Cheasapeake Bay? Euuuwww....That sounds like something done in a third world country, not the US.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 7:08PM
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