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Popular bathroom wipes blamed for sewer clogs

In this photograph taken, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in Middlesex, N.J., Rob Villee, executive director of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewer Authority in New Jersey, holds up a wipe he flushed through his test toilet in his office. Increasingly popular bathroom wipes, thick, premoistened towelettes that are advertised as flushable, are creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the nation. The problem has gotten so bad in this upstate New York town that frustrated sewer officials traced the wipes back to specific neighborhoods, and even knocked on doors to break the embarrassing news to residents that they are the source of a costly, unmentionable mess. An industry trade group this month revised its guidelines on which wipes can be flushed, and has come out with a universal stick-figure, do-not-flush symbol to put on packaging. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

In this photograph taken, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, in Middlesex, N.J., Rob Villee, executive director of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewer Authority in New Jersey, holds up a wipe he flushed through his test toilet in his office. Increasingly popular bathroom wipes, thick, premoistened towelettes that are advertised as flushable, are creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the nation. The problem has gotten so bad in this upstate New York town that frustrated sewer officials traced the wipes back to specific neighborhoods, and even knocked on doors to break the embarrassing news to residents that they are the source of a costly, unmentionable mess. An industry trade group this month revised its guidelines on which wipes can be flushed, and has come out with a universal stick-figure, do-not-flush symbol to put on packaging. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

BEMUS POINT, N.Y. (AP) - Increasingly popular bathroom wipes - pre-moistened towelettes that are often advertised as flushable - are being blamed for creating clogs and backups in the nation's sewer systems.

Wastewater authorities say wipes may go down the toilet, but even many labeled flushable aren't quickly breaking down. That's costing some municipalities millions of dollars to dispatch crews to unclog pipes and pumps and to replace and upgrade machinery.

Manufacturers insist wipes labeled flushable aren't the problem, pointing instead to things like paper towels, feminine hygiene products and baby wipes clearly marked as nonflushable.

The complaints have prompted a renewed look at solving the problem.

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry recently specified seven tests for manufacturers to use to determine which wipes to call flushable.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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