Flushing wipes down the pipes can cause big problems for neighbors, city

Toilet (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Employees at the city wastewater treatment plant have seen a lot. It’s usually, not too pretty.

That includes the globs of things people flush that were never meant to go down the pipes, such as condoms, tampons, dish rags and baby wipes.

“Once you flush it down, all we can do is fight a losing battle,” Joe Pajor, Deputy Director of Public Works and Utilities said.

Three things are meant to go down the toilet, two of them, you guessed it: human waste. The other is toilet paper. When you flush anything down the toilet that is outside those three things, several consequences can occur.

1. It may not clear your own plumbing at home, causing a back up.

2. It could block up pipes that connect you and your neighbors waste on its way to the plant.

3. It can interfere with normal operations of the plant and cause problems.

Some may say, “but my wipes say flushable!” The labelling of flushable/non-flushable wipes is voluntary by the manufacturer.

“Because it’s a voluntary standard they’re complying with, they may or may not be as flushable as you might hope or you might think and when they don’t break down, then there’s a problem in the collection system,” Pajor said.

In short, wipes go through the system until they reach the plant where big metal plates attempt to catch things that shouldn’t be there. From there, that waste is washed through additional piping, where it becomes “cleaner” waste. It is then taken to the dump.

“It’s very important that what we do in terms of building the system as carefully as we can, and having the protective equipment at the plants so they don’t get damaged, that we really need consumers to help us avoid the problem in the first place,” Pajor said.

Another attempt at the “no wipes down the pipes” message came a few years ago, when the city hung door hangers at residences warning them of the dangers.