Wallets, toys, food: more than just TP in sewer

Flushable wipes don't dissolve like toilet paper

A clogged sewer pipe overflowed after workers loosened the cap (Courtesy: City of Vancouver)
A clogged sewer pipe overflowed after workers loosened the cap (Courtesy: City of Vancouver)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Baby wipes and other flushable wipes are rising in popularity, but they are also doing more damage then ever to sewer systems. Experts said they are an expensive problem to take care of because the wipes don’t dissolve like toilet paper.

Oranges, candy wrappers and other items removed from the sewer in Vancouver (Courtesy: City of Vancouver)
Oranges, candy wrappers and other items removed from the sewer in Vancouver (Courtesy: City of Vancouver)

Incoming sewage at Vancouver’s West Side Reclamation Facility is filtered through an industrial screen, removing everything from candy wrappers, wallets, eyeglasses, kids toys and orange peels. But Frank Dick with Vancouver Sewer and Wastewater Services said it’s the flushable wipes that do the most damage.

Dick told KOIN 6 News flushable wipes, feminine hygiene products and similar materials fill nearly 5 small dumpsters a week. They also clog remote pump stations, creating an expensive problem.

“Probably on the order of $100,000 to $200,000 a year to manage this material that comes in,” Dick said.

The problem is bigger in Portland. The Bureau of Environmental Services said flushable material fills 5 large dumpsters a week, and all that material will wind up in landfills.

“The problem is that if we landfill it from here there’s an increased cost because it requires a special handling. It’s contaminated in the wastewater and it becomes a lot more expensive to landfill,” said Dick.

Dick said the costs associated with these non-degradable products end up in customer’s sewer bills.

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