Flushable wipes aren’t flushable.
That’s the message the managers of municipal wastewater plants would like the public to get.
The items fished out of Tacoma’s wastewater system over the decades are almost legendary: diamond rings, dentures, coveralls from an ornery jail inmate.
But it’s those so-called flushable wipes that are causing headaches in the sewer biz and siphoning money from ratepayers as they make extra work for city crews and clog home plumbing.
TO FLUSH OR NOT?
Some 10 billion gallons of wastewater flow through Tacoma’s sewers each year. Along with it are nearly 3,000 tons of debris never meant to be flushed down a toilet.
“Who flushes a spoon?” asks Hugh Messer as he looks at a board displaying everything from antique bottles to a plastic alligator. Messer is a manager in Tacoma’s environmental services division.
Chief among contraband debris are the so-called flushable wipes.
There’s a schism between manufacturers who sell the wipes and those who have to deal with them downstream.
Walmart sells Parent’s Choice flushable wipes. The fine print should give any homeowner pause. It advises to flush only one at a time and that they should not be used with basement pump systems.
“These wipes are suitable for well-maintained sewers and septics,” the package states.
Not really, Messer said.
“Our biggest problem is wipes,” he said Thursday at the city’s large wastewater treatment plant next to the Puyallup River on Tacoma’s Tideflats.
“They say it’s OK to flush,” Messer said of various brands. “It’s not OK to flush.”
Claims that the wipes are biodegradable are just clever marketing, Messer said.
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