Some sewage treatment companies say they are facing a serious epidemic problem: more disposable wipes are flushed into toilets, causing clogged pipes, clogged pumps and discharging untreated sewage into homes and waterways.
For years, utility companies have been urging customers to ignore the “washable” label on the increasingly popular pre-wet wipes, which are used by nursing home staff, toilet-trained toddlers, and people who don’t like toilet paper. . However, some public utility companies said that their wiping problem worsened during the shortage of toilet paper caused by the pandemic a year ago, and it has not yet been alleviated.
They said some customers who turned to baby wipes and “personal hygiene” wipes seemed to insist on using toilet paper long after it returned to store shelves. Another theory: Those who don’t bring wipes to the office will use more wipes when working at home.
The utility company says that as people disinfect counters and door handles, more disinfectant wipes are also improperly rinsed. Paper masks and latex gloves were thrown into the toilet and flushed into rain drains, blocking sewer equipment and littering rivers.
WSSC Water serves 1.8 million residents in suburban Maryland, and workers at its largest sewage pumping station removed about 700 tons of wipes last year—an increase of 100 tons from 2019.
WSSC Water spokesperson Lyn Riggins (Lyn Riggins) said: “It started in March last year and has not eased since.”
The utility company said that the wet wipes would become a squishy mass, either in the sewer at home or a few miles away. Then, they condense with grease and other cooking grease improperly discharged into the sewer, sometimes forming huge “cellulite”, clogging pumps and pipes, backflowing sewage into the basement and overflowing into streams. On Wednesday, WSSC Water said that after an estimated 160 pounds of wet wipes clogged the pipes, 10,200 gallons of untreated sewage flowed into a stream in Silver Spring.
Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory affairs for the National Association of Clean Water Authorities, said that during the pandemic, some utility companies had to more than double their wipes workload-a cost that was passed on to customers.
In Charleston, South Carolina, the utility company spent an additional $110,000 last year (an increase of 44%) to prevent and clear wiping-related blockages, and expects to do so again this year. Officials said that the wipe screen that used to be cleaned once a week now needs to be cleaned three times a week.
“It took several months for the wet wipes to be collected in our system,” said Baker Mordecai, the head of wastewater collection for the Charleston Water Supply System. “Then we started to notice a sharp increase in clogs.”
Charleston Utilities recently filed a federal lawsuit against Costco, Wal-Mart, CVS, and four other companies that manufacture or sell wet wipes with a “washable” label, claiming that they have caused “large-scale” damage to the sewer system. The lawsuit aims to prohibit the sale of wet wipes as “washable” or safe for sewer systems until the company proves that they are broken down into small enough pieces to avoid clogging.
Mordecai said the lawsuit stemmed from a blockage in 2018, when divers had to pass through untreated sewage 90 feet downstream, into a dark wet well, and pull 12-foot-long wipes from three pumps.
Officials said that in the Detroit area, after the pandemic began, a pumping station began collecting an average of about 4,000 pounds of wet wipes per week—four times the previous amount.
King County spokeswoman Marie Fiore (Marie Fiore) said that in the Seattle area, workers remove wet wipes from pipes and pumps around the clock. Surgical masks were rarely found in the system in the past.
DC Water officials said that at the beginning of the pandemic, they saw more wet wipes than usual, probably due to a shortage of toilet paper, but the number has decreased in recent months. Officials said that the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in southwest Washington had larger pumps than some other utilities and was less susceptible to debris, but the utility still saw wet wipes clogging pipes.
The DC Commission passed a law in 2016 requiring wet wipes sold in the city to be marked as “flushable” only if they break “shortly” after flushing. However, the wiper manufacturer Kimberly-Clark Corp. sued the city, arguing that the law-the first such law in the United States-was unconstitutional because it would regulate businesses outside the region. A judge put the case on hold in 2018, waiting for the city government to issue detailed regulations.
A spokesperson for the DC Department of Energy and Environment said the agency has proposed regulations but is still working with DC Water “to ensure the appropriate standards are adopted.”
Officials in the “nonwovens” industry said their wipes have been criticized by people for making baby wipes, disinfecting wipes and other wet wipes that are not suitable for toilets.
The president of the alliance, Lara Wyss, stated that the recently formed Responsible Washing Coalition is funded by 14 wipes manufacturers and suppliers. The alliance supports state legislation that requires 93% of non-rinsing wipes sold to be labeled “Do Not Wash.” Label.
Last year, Washington State became the first state to require labeling. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, five other states—California, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, and Massachusetts—are considering similar legislation.
Wyss said: “We need people to understand that the vast majority of these products that protect our homes are not for flushing.”
However, she said that 7% of the wet wipes sold as “flushable” contain plant fibers, which, like toilet paper, decompose and become “unrecognizable” when flushed. Wyss said that “forensic analysis” found that 1% to 2% of the wet wipes in fatbergs are designed to be washable and may be trapped soon before they decompose.
The wipe industry and utility companies still diverge on the testing standards, that is, the speed and extent to which wipes must be decomposed in order to be considered “washable.”
Brian Johnson, executive director of the Greater Peoria Health District in Illinois, said: “They say they are flushable, but they are not.” “They may be technically flushable…”
“The same is true for triggers,” added Dave Knoblett, the utility’s collection system director, “but you shouldn’t.”
Utilities officials said they worry that as some consumers develop new habits, the problem will continue into the pandemic. The Nonwovens Industry Association stated that sales of disinfectant and washable wipes have increased by about 30% and are expected to remain strong.
According to data from NielsenIQ, a Chicago-based consumer behavior tracking agency, as of early April, sales of bathroom cleaning wipes have increased by 84% compared to the 12-month period ending April 2020. “Bath and shower” wipes Sales increased by 54%. As of April 2020, sales of pre-wet wipes for toilet use have increased by 15%, but have declined slightly since then.
At the same time, the utility company requires customers to insist on using the “three Ps” when flushing water-pee, poop and (toilet paper).
“Use these wipes to your heart’s content,” says Riggins of WSSC Water, Maryland. “But just put them in the trash can instead of the toilet.”
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Post time: Aug-26-2021