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Flushable Wipes Causing Problems For Sewer Systems

Update Date: Sep 24, 2013 09:22 AM EDT

Popular bathroom wipes are being held responsible for creating backups and clogs in sewer systems all around the U.S.

The wastewater authorities say wipes go down the toilet and they course through the sewer system. Those labeled flushable too aren’t breaking down. This is costing few municipalities millions of dollars to dispatch crews to unclog pipes and pumps to upgrade the machinery.

In July, the problem got worldwide attention when London sewer officials reported that they were removing a 15 ton “bus-sized lump”. These were wrongly flushed grease and wet pipes dubbed the “fatberg”.

“We could walk right up, knock on the door and say, ‘Listen, this problem is coming right from your house,’” said Tom Walsh, senior project coordinator at South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts. He was dispatching crews at least once a week to clear a grinder pump that would seize up trying to shred the fibrous wipes.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies says it has been regularly hearing complaints about wipes from sewer systems for about past four years. The agency represents 300 wastewater agencies.

Cottonelle, a popular brand, has a campaign called “Let’s talk about your bum”. The ads show people trying to wash their hair with no water. The ad ends with the tagling: “You can’t clean your hair without water, so why clean your bum that way?”.

“My team regularly goes sewer diving to analyze what’s causing problems, We’ve seen the majority, 90 percent in fact, are items that are not supposed to be flushed, like paper towels, feminine products or baby wipes,” said Trina McCormick, a senior manager at Kimberly-Clark Corp., maker of Cottonelle.

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