Many people use wet wipes for convenience but fail to realize the impact on the City’s Waste Water system once it is flushed down the toilet. Manufacturers of disposable wipes often advertise that their wipe is “flushable” or “safe for sewer and septic systems.” Independent tests have found this is not true. Unfortunately, wipes do not disintegrate easily or quickly, and cause blockages in the sewage collection system and sewage treatment equipment at the waste water treatment plant. These wipes cause a significant amount of damage costing tens of thousands of dollars a year in damaged pumps and manpower to remove blockages in lines that are clogged.
Unfortunately, Aberdeen’s Department of Public Works is NOT immune to the impacts of rags or the associated damages. City staff members have seen a drastic increase in sewer system clogs caused by the disposal of fats, oil, grease, rags and other non-biodegradable products that are flushed down the drain. As seen in the attached photo, this is just one of the pumps that has been damaged/clogged here in Aberdeen. Not only do they shorten the life of the equipment, but staff members have to spend hundreds to thousands of hours each year removing this type of debris from the system. Within the United States rags cost utility companies up to $1 billion a year in equipment failures, and additional manpower (according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies). The City is spending over $500,000 this year to replace two screens at the entrance of the WWTP that are used to remove rags and other non-biodegradable items from entering the waste water treatment plant process. These screens were damaged over the past several years and eventually failed last summer due to rags and other non-biodegradable products such as sand, rocks, and other items found in the sewer system. In other areas, the City spent over $7,000 to install a grinder pump at one of its 11 pump stations so rags could be broken down and not cause clogs in the system.
Residents and businesses can take a proactive step by ensuring these wipes and other non-biodegradable products do not enter the waste stream sewer system. The Great Lakes Water Authority based out of Detroit, Michigan, recently produced a short educational video on the impacts of wipes on the sewer System: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5u-KGEH75_E&feature=youtu.be Please take a couple minutes and watch the video; we hope this will make you more informed about the impacts of disposable wipes on the City’s infrastructure system. We need you to help us protect these assets so the system will function as designed and money used to maintain the system will not be spent on addressing a preventable issue.
Remember: “When in doubt, throw the Wet Wipe out.”