Disposable wipes tax sewer system
Products championed as disposable and even flushable, but disinfecting wipes are causing headaches for the Town of Oliver’s operators of our sewer waste system.
The products appeal to consumers in part because of manufacturers’ claims that they can be conveniently flushed down the toilet. But their cloth-like material doesn’t break down in the sanitary sewer system like toilet paper and can block sewer lines, clog equipment and increase the Towns’ maintenance and repair costs which has happened more often in 2013 for Oliver.
Director of Public Works, Shawn Goodsell said, “This problem has been brought to my attention several times this year from our operators. They have encountered more pump failures (clogging) from rags accumulating in the lift stations which requires more maintenance, down time and increased call outs which all accounts to increased costs or our guys being taken away from our regular scheduled work”.
Other North American sewer systems have documented and talked about the increase problems associated with these wipes that do not effectively breakdown fast enough but instead accumulate and even attaching to parts/structures located in the lift stations. The problem has worsened in recent years because more such products are available on the market and consumer demand for antibacterial products seems to be growing.
The Town of Oliver has some grinding lift pumps but they don’t seem to breakdown the wipes enough because of their soft flexible texture and just get pumped through creating more problems accumulating down the line. Goodsell said, “Today (Dec. 20) we had issues with our washer compactor which is the last stop for solid materials to be captured and we had it plug up and stop working, filling the hopper and creating more maintenance down time.” The Town’s washer compactor is a new piece of equipment in their arsenal for removing more solids, washing out organics and dewaters the waste to produce a product that almost looks like compost which keeps the smells down at the sewage plant and also takes out more solids so they don’t accumulate at the sewage lagoon treatment facility.
“This unit (washer/compactor) was troublesome this year and we have finally got it in proper working condition recently, thanks to the company that sold it to the Town and since then we now have to contend with the increased disposable wipe problem which is making the equipment fail/clog twice in the last 4 weeks”, Goodsell said.
“We understand that these wipes can sometimes be convenient and what we’d like to see flushed down the system is just toilet paper,” Goodsell says. “These rags just don’t breakdown quick enough and we wanted to get the word out there. If you use these, please dispose of them in a waste basket you could have beside the toilet.”