Last year just after Thanksgiving day, a condominium complex in Chester, NY experienced a not-so-welcome problem – raw sewage erupting from a manhole near the pump station serving the 600-plus unit. What happened? After consultants came in to evaluate the situation, they found that globs of wipe products (which claim to be disposable) had ultimately triggered the pumps by becoming wrapped around the station’s flotation devices. Ultimately, the situation cost $1,500 to repair, according Village of Chester Mayor Phil Valastro.
At Haley Mechanical, we understand that many companies advertise their products as “disposable,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay to flush cleaning and baby wipes, paper towels, and other paper or wipe products other than toilet paper. The mayor advised a crowd that gathered at a Village Board meeting that they shouldn’t put anything in a toilet other than what’s supposed to be there – good advice.
As a home or business owner, you probably aren’t aware that this is a huge and growing problem. According to sewer operators and municipal leaders, the problem of flushing disposable cleaning wipes and other non-flush-able items has been reaching what they call “epic proportions” across the country. Ultimately, the costs for repair end up with the consumer, in the form of higher sewer bills.
Toilet paper is really the only paper product that breaks down properly in the sewer. Paper towels, baby wipes, and cleaning wipes essentially remain solid instead of breaking up, leading to wear and tear on machines, and backed up sewer systems. As these products “glob up” and clump, the sewer system eventually becomes sluggish, and finally backs up. So, why do companies market products using terms like “biodegradable,” “flush-able,” and “disposable?” That’s easy – it makes them easier to sell. What’s better than a disinfecting wipe used to clean the bathroom that you can just flush right down the toilet when you’re done?
Cynthia Finley, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies‘ director of regulatory affairs, says that policy efforts to increase scrutiny of firms that market products using these terms have essentially gone nowhere. Finley also stated that currently, there are no federal efforts to curb the use of these products, and that sewer districts across the nation are plagued by these problems.
So, what is the lesson here? Regardless of whether a product claims to be flush-able or biodegradable, don’t flush it unless it’s toilet paper! This will help prevent sewage back up, and allow you to save on sewer costs.
Haley Mechanical wants homeowners to be aware of the damage that flushing products that are not meant to be flushed can do to sewer systems – and the damage it can do to your wallet when repair costs are passed down to the consumer. Contact us today!