10,000-Gallon Wastewater Spill In Michigan Caused By “Flushable” Wipes

 In water resources

By Peter Chawaga

October 27, 2020


It’s been well known among the wastewater treatment community for years that so-called “flushable” wipes can wreak havoc on infrastructure when consumers dispose of them through household drains. And now, the latest example of the problem posed by this sewer menace has resulted in a 10,000-gallon sewage spill in Michigan.

“Village officials reported a sewage spill happened this week in Beulah and state regulators confirmed it was because of a baby wipes clog in the pipes,” the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. “[Village Superintendent Brady Street] said a settling tank had a clog that created a backup which spilled from a manhole 400 feet upstream but still on site at the village’s wastewater treatment plant.”

Non-flushable wipes do not decompose upon entering wastewater systems — instead, they congeal together to create massive formations known as “fatbergs” to clog pipelines and treatment equipment. Some communities have sued the manufacturers of the wipes for misleading consumers into thinking flushing them won’t cause harm. But, despite best efforts from these groups, a rise in the use of disinfecting wipes in the face of the novel coronavirus has led to a surge in sewer clogs.

“In May, [nearby] Macomb County said it had been removing 4,000 pounds of wipes a week at one pump station,” The Detroit News reported in response to the Beulah wastewater spill. “Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller wants Congress to talk to manufacturers and take action. Miller said so-called flushable wipes aren’t breaking down.”

Within two hours of discovering the spill, authorities in Beulah had cleaned it up and spread lime on the area, assuring ratepayers that no waterways were impacted and that nobody had come into contact with the raw sewage.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said that the wipes had gotten stuck in a short section of smaller-diameter wastewater pipe used to restrict flow. Sewage then backed up and overflowed through the manhole. Workers cleared the pipe with a technique known as water jetting and the pipe was unclogged.

But there is only one real, permanent fix to the issue.

“EGLE officials recommend bathroom tissue be the only paper product to be flushed down toilets to avoid these types of clogs,” per the Record-Eagle. “Non-toilet paper products — including all wet wipes — should be thrown into the garbage and not flushed down the toilet, experts have said.”

To read more about how non-flushable wipes affect wastewater systems, visit Water Online’s Flushables Solutions Center.

Original Article from Wateronline.com