A surge in the use of sanitary wipes during the COVID-19 emergency has created headaches for wastewater treatment plants

Written by on April 15, 2020

A surge in the use of sanitary wipes during the COVID-19 emergency has created headaches for wastewater treatment plants

April 15, 2020

A surge in the use of sanitary wipes during the COVID-19 emergency has created headaches for wastewater treatment plants. Sewage plant operators across the region are pleading with residents to stop flushing wipes. StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips reports those wipes could cause raw sewage to back up in basements, streets and treatment facilities.

The so-called “flushable” wipes are not flushable at all. Unlike toilet paper, they don’t dissolve in water. Instead, they provide the building blocks for nightmarish “fatbergs,” those disgusting balls of grease that clog up sewer pipes.

Todd Duerr runs wastewater treatment plants for Aqua Pennsylvania. Duerr says the increase in wipes have led to multiple equipment shut-downs.

“It creates this big rats nest around the pumps and they can’t continue to function,” said Duerr.

In Philadelphia the city’s water department says large quantities of wipes have caused equipment failures. And coronavirus litter like rubber gloves and masks are making their way into the system through storm drains. All wipes, gloves and masks should be thrown in the trash, not the toilet. 


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