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.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?
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."