The genius of toilet paper is that it deteriorates. Just because a product is labeled “flushable” does not mean it should be flushed or that it actually does deteriorate. Wipes and similar “flushable” products are clogging sewer systems and treatment plant equipment and costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year in repairs and maintenance to the nation’s water and sewer systems. That cost rises into the billions when put into a global perspective. Currently, national and international authorities are working to eliminate the term “flushable” and to regulate the way people market and dispose of wipes. The simple fact is that a toilet is not a trash can and it is designed to handle human waste and toilet paper and nothing else.
The first and most important step to curbing the damage done to sewer systems and the costs related to keeping up with the problem is to educate the public about what NOT to put down the toilet. Many homeowners get an early wake-up call when the sewers in their homes get clogged by “flushable” wipes and they have to pay a plumber hundreds of dollars to clear their sewer lines. But, for those who have been lucky enough to have their wipes pass into the city system and not experienced clogged pipes and the nightmare of sewer backup in their homes, there is ample evidence of the problems faced on a daily basis by city workers who have to deal with “wipes” that overwhelm lines and vital machinery at sewer plants.
The city of Detroit dealt with this problem in the extreme when the pumps in a long-term, temporary bypass sewer interceptor collapsed and caused a giant sinkhole. Detroit city officials say the wipes turned into an almost rope-like substance and wrapped themselves around pumps. Detroit has considered adding cutters to the pumps to reduce the stress. Still, the cost of this and other upgrades to prevent system collapse is a steep one and one that could be avoided if people disposed of wipes by properly placing them in the garbage instead of flushing them into the sewer system.
Too many people treat their toilets like garbage cans and discard cigarette butts, old prescription medicines, kitty litter, feminine hygiene products and so much more without considering the long-term effects their actions will have on their wallet. The repair and maintenance costs are all passed on to the public, so the next time you think your water and sewer bill are outrageously high, consider the fact that if you are putting garbage down your toilet, you share a responsibility for that added cost. It really is like flushing money down the toilet.
People who work in the water and wastewater field are well aware of this problem and helping to educate the general public has become a necessity. The man-hours spent dealing with this completely avoidable problem are mind-boggling and informing communities about the cost and damage done by flushing items that should never be flushed is a great starting point. Let’s go over the list of what should be flushed down a toilet one more time.
- Human waste
- Toilet Paper
- NOTHING ELSE!
Do your part. Spread the word.