Experience with flushing wipes

I just finished your article about flushing wipes ("Driving Home a Simple Point," TPO, December 2012). I have had a personal experience with this one. Our municipal sewer line was clogged and started to back up. We called a plumber, thinking it was our line. Luckily, it was in the city main, so we did not have to pay for it.

The plumber told us that there was a clog of disposable wipes in the main that was causing the problem, along with grease. I never put grease into our line, as I know it not only can cause clogs, but can also get the city into trouble with the Department of Natural Resources when there are large amounts found in public sewers.

I hadn't ever thought about those disinfecting wipes that everyone and their brother uses these days. I quit flushing them, although it is doubtful that our neighbors do the same. Homeowner education, SOS signs and a warning on the label on these products would be great ideas!

Janet Murray, R.E.H.S.

Environmental Health Supervisor

Randolph County (Mo.) Health Dept.

President, Missouri Smallflows Organization

Wipes do cause trouble

One of my last jobs before I retired from the Washington State Parks was to design the replacement for the duplex 5 hp pumps in the lift station at one of our parks. The pumps were old, but they were still doing their job of lifting sewage up to a gravity sewer until the baby wipes came along.

Yes, baby wipes are flushable, but as you said ("Driving Home a Simple Point," TPO, December 2012), they do not disintegrate, and they are tough. Once that synthetic fabric gets wrapped around an impeller, it's really messy and time-consuming to remove. Meanwhile, the lift station is closed and so are the toilet facilities.

So, after spending several thousand dollars for new and improved pumps that pass the wipes through better than the old pumps, we still get an occasional problem from the wipes, and facilities are again closed. And this says nothing about the associated costs of trouble at the treatment plant, and the cost to dispose of its hazardous trash.

So, yes, these wipes are an issue, and they do not belong in any sewer system, let alone a septic system. This is where Save Our Sewers or Save Our Septic signs can help, along with educating the general public and truth in labeling on wipes product packaging. It also might help if manufacturers and buyers of these products stopped to consider what they were doing for a sustainable future — not just for the bottom or for convenience.

Thanks for your excellent articles and let's expose more issues like this so we all can learn. It's a good start.


Allan J. Papp, P.E.


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