Meridian Star

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September 23, 2013

Wipes, paper towels among items clogging sewers

US —

Wastewater officials across the country have been trying to spread the message that not just anything can go down the toilet, and it has recently taken aim at wipes.

Vancouver, Wash., has a campaign called "Smart Bunnies" that shows a bespectacled rabbit sitting on a toilet and the tag line: "Smart bunnies flush only toilet tissue ... All wipes and other products will clog the pipes!"

"Many new products, such as wipes, claim to be flushable. However, that doesn't mean they're treatable in our wastewater system," according to the campaign's materials. Among the items it says don't belong in the toilet: Cleaning rags, reinforced paper towels, baby diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, and medical bandages, tubing and pads.

A public awareness campaign by the Orange County Sanitation District in California called "What 2 Flush" emphasizes that the toilet is meant only for the three Ps — pee, poop and toilet paper. It even says facial tissues are too sturdy to be flushed. Among the more unusual items it says people commonly flush that risk causing clogs: cat litter, condoms and dental floss.

A study by the Portland Water District in Maine in 2011 analyzed what was causing clogs in their sewer pipes and came up with this analysis:

— 42 percent paper products — including paper towels

— 24 percent baby wipes

— 17 percent hygiene products, including feminine pads and tampons

— 8 percent "flushable" wipes

— Remainder, other items, including household wipes, cosmetic pads and medical materials.

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