Mar 25, 2020

Wastewater Operators: "Don't flush wipes!"

As the toilet paper shortage continues during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, people are turning to disposable wipes, which is clogging sewer systems

flushable wipes

As the toilet paper shortage continues, people are turning to alternative options, including disposable wipes, for bathroom needs, reported a Naperville public works official.

Sewer officials across the nation are urging residents to avoid flushing paper towels, tissues, napkins and flushable wipes.

Sweatshirts, bandanas and disposable wipes have been appearing in Naperville, Illinois’ sewage system, according to Amy Ries, deputy director of the city’s water and wastewater utility.

In recent weeks, the city has seen an increase in the number of disposable wipes, clothing items and disposal diapers for both children and adults, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Disposable wipes, which are not flushable, are an issue for municipal sewers and wastewater treatment facilities because the wipes act like felt and knot together, causing blockages in pipes. They can also break pumps that carry waste to the next phase and those who flush wipes also risk damaging their home’s internal pipes.

Contrary to prior belief, hot grease poured down a drain only exacerbates the issue, since the grease hardens like concrete. As customers flush the wipes, they are typically covered in grease, oil, hair and waste, which coat them in a thick layer of grim and prevent them from breaking down.

“In these times when we’re confronting a major health crisis, the addition of health hazards created by clogged pipes and blocked sewers are situations we don’t need and that are quite avoidable,” said the Boston Water and Sewer commission in a statement.

Disposable wipes are a convenient and easy-to-use product that serve a variety of helpful purposes, many Americans may be using them incorrectly. Misusing disposable wipes can create “fatbergs," which is a term used for masses of waste that clog a sewer system.

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