Published On: Fri, Nov 9th, 2018

Plumbers Say Flushable Wipes are Causing Sewer Backups All Over the U.S.

It’s something thousands of Americans use every single day in the bathroom, but this one item could be wreaking havoc on local plumbing systems. Plumbers are warning that flushable wipes can still clog drains, and those clogs may cost thousands of dollars to repair.

In Sacramento, California, crews used to clean underground pumping stations once a month. Now, they clean them every one to two weeks.

photo/ Alexandra / München via pixabay

These wipes are labeled as “flushable,” but wastewater officials say that term is very misleading.

“They can actually rag up inside and actually get stuck in there so that it can’t move up and pull that sewage up,” says Rosemary Clark of the Sacramento Area Sewer District.

The main issue is that flushable wipes remain intact through sewer systems, whereas toilet paper breaks down. Just because something is labeled as “flushable” doesn’t mean that it should be flushed, Clark says.

The main concern is that the clogs can become so bad, raw sewage starts backing up into the streets and into nearby homes.

Flushable wipes can lead to costly repairs at the municipal level and the consumer level. To determine the location and source of the leak, plumbers typically have to perform a camera inspection.

“All of the equipment is inserted through an existing access point to the plumbing, eliminating the need for any type of digging or property damage during inspection,” says Mr. Rooter. “Traditional inspection methods often involved invasive property damage necessary to access and examine the pipes.”

Many plumbers say that flushable wipes account for a third of all repairs they make.

If a clog is caught early on, it can cost a few hundred dollars to fix. But in a worst-case scenario, the sewer line may need to be replaced. Homeowners can spend up to $20,000 to replace their sewer line.

Plumbers recommend tossing flushable wipes in the trash instead of sending it down the pipes. Sacramento’s Rosemary Clark has a fitting phrase for it: “no wipes in the pipes.” Only human waste and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet.

Flushable wipes are becoming such a problem that one city in Minnesota filed a lawsuit against consumer goods companies, including Procter & Gamble, in 2015.

The wipes are also impacting sewer systems in other parts of the world. A 2017 report from the Guardian found these types of blockages caused more than $130 million in damages each year.

Author: Jacob Maslow

On the DISPATCH: Headlines  Local  Opinion

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