Flushable Wipes Are Not Flushable

Despite what the labels and fancy marketing may suggest, flushable wipes are NOT flushable. On March 29, 2017, the NTMWD’s Squabble Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Rockwall experienced a major blockage due to accumulation of “flushable” wipes and cloths. The blockage caused a shut-down of the plant until the debris could be removed and resulted in an unauthorized discharge of nearly 180,000 gallons of wastewater. At the Squabble Creek WWTP, the abundance of these wipes and cloths initiated an unpleasant, dirty, and dangerous duty for NTMWD staff who were tasked with untangling sewer pumps and valves from the tightly wound-mass of wipes and cloths.

flushable wipes are not flushable | Defend Your Drains | NTMWD

A wastewater pump is blocked by a tangled mess of “flushable” wipes and other debris.

These blockages can wreak havoc on wastewater systems, especially when they combine with fats, oils or greases in the wastewater system. These types of blockages are often called “fatbergs.” In 2015, wastewater workers in London removed a fatberg that weighed in at 10 tons and measured 40 feet long. It cost nearly half a million dollars and two months to repair the damage. As the sales of wipes soar, the wastewater industry is seeing a surge of problems caused by the blockages. In 2015, flushable wipes accounted for $1.4 billion in sales globally. But, the problem isn’t just limited to “flushable” wipes.

“Flushable” wipes are increasingly considered to be a staple of personal hygeine, but wipes of all kind have become a maintenance nightmare for the wastewater treatment industry. Time-saving cleaning cloths are becoming more and more popular, racking up $2.2 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2015, and sometimes these also make their way down the drains.

Wipes, cleaning cloths, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, and personal care items (such as dental floss or cotton swabs) are common household items that do not break down fully in water. When flushed, they can cause blockages in the wastewater pipes of your home, your neighborhood, or at the wastewater treatment plants. The mechanical equipment at wastewater plants can become so tightly bound with wipes, that knives or wire cutters are needed to cut them off so machinery can function properly. While these products might flush down your toilet, they do not fully break down in water like toilet paper does. You should always trash, not flush, any paper product other than toilet paper.

We can combat this messy problem by remember to only flush the 3 Ps:

  • Pee
  • Poo
  • Paper (toilet paper)

Nothing else should ever go down your drains. If it can be thrown it in the trash, do not flush it down the toilet! Wipes of any kind should always be thrown into the trash. Learn more about how you can prevent wastewater blockages and Defend Your Drains in other ways by visiting defendyourdrainsnorthtexas.com. Together, we can prevent costly maintenance and repairs to our wastewater treatment systems and your personal plumbing.