Popular bathroom wipes clog pipes, tax sewer systems
BEMUS POINT, N.Y. – Increasingly popular bathroom wipes – pre-moistened towelettes that are often advertised as flushable – are being blamed for creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the nation.
Wastewater authorities say wipes may go down the toilet, but even many labeled flushable aren’t breaking down as they course through the sewer system. That’s costing some municipalities millions of dollars to dispatch crews to unclog pipes and pumps and to replace and upgrade machinery.
The problem got so bad in this western New York community this summer that sewer officials set up traps – basket strainers in sections of pipe leading to an oft-clogged pump – to figure out which households the wipes were coming from. They mailed letters and then pleaded in person for residents to stop flushing them.
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents 300 wastewater agencies, says it has been hearing complaints about wipes from sewer systems big and small for about the past four years.