There are certain items we know never to flush down the toilet, such as medications, living creatures, and corrosive substances. However, there are other household items that you probably thought were okay to flush but, in truth, really aren’t. And yes, we’re talking about flushable wet wipes.
“We have heard loud and clear from facilities across the state that this is a problem,” Greta Gauthier, legislative director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said.
And it’s not just Minnesota that’s sewer-deep in flushable wet wipe blockages. From Minneapolis to Australia, these items are causing major clogs in sewer lines in cities and backyards.
“Whether they’re used for cleaning, babies, or personal care, our current sewer systems were not built to handle them,” Gauthier said. “It costs cities a lot of money to come in and manually remove them from their equipment. Some cities have to do it every day.”
Indeed, earlier this month at the Hutchinson Water Treatment Plant in Kansas, city workers had to perform a quarter-million dollar repair to remove a monster mass of flushable wipes. Nationwide, there are roughly 700 water main breaks per day, and many are now caused by so-called “flushable” products.
“We couldn’t get the flow through the valve so we couldn’t close it off,” said Tim Gratke, supervisor at the wastewater plant.
And the wipes are becoming such as issue, that the MPCA is looking to ban the word “flushable” on labels. Because let’s face it: besides the fact that the wipes make it down the toilet, it’s clear that these products aren’t otherwise flushable.
If you’re like most people who don’t spend too much time thinking about your pipes, you’re likely to forget the consequences of flushing, and it might be difficult to know what should and shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet.
But as far as Gauther is concerned, the solution is simple: if it’s not toilet paper, throw it in the trash.
“Wipes clog pipes, and your toilet is not your trash can,” Gauthier said. “So we have nothing against using the wipes, just put them in the trash.”