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NEWS: Wipes in the pipes? Not a good idea, and it’s national news.

That’s the story that ran in USA Today this week, featuring cities’ sewer issues being caused by an increasing number of so-called “flushable” disinfecting wipes clogging wastewater-treatment systems.

From the story:

The products appeal to consumers in part because of manufacturers’
claims that they can be conveniently flushed down the toilet. But their
cloth-like material doesn’t break down in the sanitary sewer system like
toilet paper and can block sewer lines, clog equipment and increase
cities’ maintenance and repair costs.

Public works managers say
the problem has worsened in recent years because more such products are
available on the market and consumer demand for antibacterial products
is growing.

Companies such as Cottonelle and Charmin have heavily
promoted bathroom wipes, while some cleaning product manufacturers have
advertised sponges that can be disposed of in the toilet.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) has been leading a charge for companies to change their marketing of these products: Sure, the material is capable of making it through your house plumbing, but problems arise in sewer systems and treatment plants as they clog equipment in clumps.

Photo courtesy NACWA

In Northeast Ohio, our system is slightly different, but the wipes still cause problems. Here’s what our Kevin Zebrowski had to say in a story we blogged last year:

“The disposable wipes can be an issue as they do not breakup or dissolve
in the collection system,” said the Southerly Assistant Superintendent.
He is close to the maintenance teams and sees what they are
experiencing.

The flushable wipes are “small enough to make it through our
screens”—bar screens act like sieves to catch large floatable debris
coming into the plant so it does not damage equipment. “Therefore,
smaller plants [perhaps like the one in the clip above] would have
issues with [remnants of diapers and wipes] blocking their bar screens
and clogging grinders earlier in the process.”

There are all kinds of things that cause problems in home plumbing and sewer systems. If you use these wipes at home, we advise you to throw them away instead of flushing them. Do you use them? Do you flush them?

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