(Kansas City, Mo.) – Wipes clean your kitchen, your bathroom, and even your body. But how they’re disposed of has become the subject of a national debate.
Some labels say the wipes are flushable and they will go down the toilet, however the problem is they don’t break down.
In late June, wipes along with trash and debris plugged one pump and damaged another at KC Water’s Burlington Creek Wastewater Pump station. This caused wastewater to bypass the station and spill directly into Burlington Creek. Repairs, which were costly and time consuming, have been made.
Shonda Marshall, a KC Water Maintenance Supervisor, discovered the problem and helped with repairs. She says a neighbor’s experience shows flushing wipes is also a risk to homeowners. “Her line plugged up and when a company snaked it the line was full of wipes. So, the wipes did go down the toilet, but they grabbed hold of the roots and just built up and built up and flooded her basement.”
The biggest example of the damage wipes can do may be in London. In 2013 when homeowners complained they couldn’t flush their toilets, workers sent a camera into the sewers and found a bus-sized lump of food fat mixed with wipes. Repairs took more than a month.
The District of Columbia is getting serious about wipes. This year, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the Nonwoven Disposable Products Act of 2016. It’s the first legislation in the U.S. to address the problems caused by flushable and non-flushable wipes. Now, NACWA, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, will work with other groups to establish “flushability” standards for flushable wipes and labeling requirements for non-flushable wipes.
If you use wipes, throw them away. The toilet is not a trash can. The only things that should go down the toilet are number 1, number 2 and toilet paper.
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KC Water maintains and operates water treatment and distribution systems, stormwater management systems, and wastewater collection and treatment systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City area. KC Water is primarily funded by fees charged to customers based on their use or impacts on the three utility systems.