News Flash

Utilities

Posted on: August 16, 2019

The "Flushable" Fantasy: DO NOT FLUSH ANY WIPES

WIPES ON A RAKE

By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels

Published in theLas Cruces Bulletin 8/16/19.

 

Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) again warns customers that advertised “flushable” wipes clog pipes. Wipes can not only damage the pipes at the residence of the person flushing them – leading to costly repairs – but also do extreme damage to the City’s wastewater treatment system – leading to even more costly repairs.


How costly? According to DC Water in Maryland, damages to its sewer systems from wipes cost $50,000 to $100,0000 for each occurrence. In 2014, that added up to $1 million in local repair costs. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates it spends $3 million every year cleaning wipes out of its sewer systems. Canada spends $250 million annually addressing issues stemming from flushable wipes within wastewater treatment plants.


“First, the wipes can clog the 45-degree pipe elbow in a customers’ own plumbing going out to the street, causing sewage backups,” said John Mrozek, LCU deputy director of Wastewater. Because the wipes do not sufficiently break down or dissolve in water, there are many places for them to snag and create a clog along the way. Service lines from a home into the city sewer are generally 3- or 4-inches in diameter, with several “elbows” or sharp bends, creating smaller places where wipes can get hung up.


“Then,” Mrozek continues, “it may take months, but slowly and surely the wipes arrive at Jacob Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility (JHWWTF) where they do even more damage.” They clog pumps at lift stations and screens meant to capture the larger items that come through the sewer lines. They arrive intact at our facilities and wind themselves into a huge rope that grabs the impellers, the rotating component of a centrifugal pump. After a hard fight, the pumps burn out and the whole machine must be repaired.


The so-called “flushable” wipes first appeared on the market in 1990. Today, from bathroom wipes and baby wipes, to cleaning wipes or makeup wipes, companies advertise the handy “flushable” or “septic safe” aspect, m

By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels

 

Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) again warns customers that advertised “flushable” wipes clog pipes. Wipes can not only damage the pipes at the residence of the person flushing them – leading to costly repairs – but also do extreme damage to the City’s wastewater treatment system – leading to even more costly repairs.


How costly? According to DC Water in Maryland, damages to its sewer systems from wipes cost $50,000 to $100,0000 for each occurrence. In 2014, that added up to $1 million in local repair costs. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates it spends $3 million every year cleaning wipes out of its sewer systems. Canada spends $250 million annually addressing issues stemming from flushable wipes within wastewater treatment plants.


“First, the wipes can clog the 45-degree pipe elbow in a customers’ own plumbing going out to the street, causing sewage backups,” said John Mrozek, LCU deputy director of Wastewater. Because the wipes do not sufficiently break down or dissolve in water, there are many places for them to snag and create a clog along the way. Service lines from a home into the city sewer are generally 3- or 4-inches in diameter, with several “elbows” or sharp bends, creating smaller places where wipes can get hung up.


“Then,” Mrozek continues, “it may take months, but slowly and surely the wipes arrive at Jacob Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility (JHWWTF) where they do even more damage.” They clog pumps at lift stations and screens meant to capture the larger items that come through the sewer lines. They arrive intact at our facilities and wind themselves into a huge rope that grabs the impellers, the rotating component of a centrifugal pump. After a hard fight, the pumps burn out and the whole machine must be repaired.


The so-called “flushable” wipes first appeared on the market in 1990. Today, from bathroom wipes and baby wipes, to cleaning wipes or makeup wipes, companies advertise the handy “flushable” or “septic safe” aspect, meaning that the strong fibers should break down like toilet paper, but, they don’t.


According to the Water Environment Federation, a trade group for water quality professionals, there are not legal guidelines defining the word “flushable” – yet!


While class action lawsuits are being filed nationwide against the manufacturers of wipes to recoup the costs of damages, and legislators are trying to pass laws to force these companies to drop the word “flushable” from packaging…can’t we simply be smarter? Instead of flushing them, toss your wipes into the trash. They are disposable…but it’s a fantasy to think they are flushable.


You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.


CAPTIONS:


PHOTO 1: LCU associates use a rake to pull out wipes from a City lift station, where the wipes – which do not disintegrate in water – can halt the flow of sewage.

eaning that the strong fibers should break down like toilet paper, but, they don’t.


According to the Water Environment Federation, a trade group for water quality professionals, there are not legal guidelines defining the word “flushable” – yet!


While class action lawsuits are being filed nationwide against the manufacturers of wipes to recoup the costs of damages, and legislators are trying to pass laws to force these companies to drop the word “flushable” from packaging…can’t we simply be smarter? Instead of flushing them, toss your wipes into the trash. They are disposable…but it’s a fantasy to think they are flushable.


You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.


CAPTION:


PHOTO 1: LCU associates use a rake to pull out wipes from a City lift station, where the wipes – which do not disintegrate in water – can halt the flow of sewage.

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