Local Agencies: Be Careful What You Flush

Wastewater treatment plant

As citizens are making heightened efforts to promote clean environments for living and work, many are increasing the types of products they flush away. Local public works departments are asking residents to refrain from flushing products other than toilet paper as many products, including those labeled “flushable” can cause expensive system blockages.

Due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus many residents may be tempted to dispose of disinfecting wipes by flushing them away. Additionally, toilet paper is flying off shelves, and temporary shortages could cause an increase in the use of alternatives. Local agencies are reminding individuals not to flush even “flushable” products as they do not disintegrate like toilet paper and are undoubtedly to blame for many wastewater pipe blockages. Officials recommend disposing of products not safe to flush using plastic liners in trash containers and disinfectant spray when necessary. This method can achieve sanitary disposal and prevent burdensome system blockages.

From coverage by WMAR:

“I realize that we are especially concerned about disinfection and proper disposal of used facial tissues, that is admirable,” said Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director Matthew W. Garbark. “But disinfectant wipes, tissues, paper towels and flushable wipes do not belong in the toilet.”

Context from The Daily Sentinel:

With toilet paper hard to come by, Grand Junction Wastewater Services Manager Kurt Carson said he is anticipating issues arising from more people turning to other products. When that happens, in addition to potentially clogging the pipes, Carson said it can also clog pumps and cause other issues at the wastewater treatment plants.

From coverage on CNN:

“When a product is labeled ‘flushable’ it generally means that it will clear your toilet bowl,” the department states on its website. “It does not mean it will definitely clear your pipes or break down in the sewer system or at a wastewater treatment plant.”

Useful links:

Baltimore City Department of Public Works

International Water Services Flushability Group Flushability Specifications