Please do not flush baby wipes and those so-called “flushable wipes” down the toilet. Case in point: The Charleston, South Carolina water system had to send scuba divers down about 90 feet into raw sewage recently to pull out mounds of wipes that had clogged the system. The Charleston Water System shared a series of graphic tweets Monday from its recent project to clear the baby wipes from its sewer system.
The water system said on Twitter: “You know wipes clog pipes, right? If not, baby wipes clogged a series of large pumps at our Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on Thursday afternoon.”
That’s when the real work started: “Then we sent divers 80-90 feet deep into the wet well/raw sewage to search in complete darkness with their hands to find and identify the obstruction. As we expected, they came up with these large masses of wipes in their first two loads, with more to come,” CWS said in a tweet.
“They also found a baseball and a big piece of metal. Don’t flush stuff like this. Joking of course, but you should only flush #1, #2, and toilet paper. The photo looking down into a pool of wastewater shows many other non-flushables,” CWS said, adding: “We made this pic low-res for your benefit.”
Responding to a comment on Twitter about how many showers these divers need after they finish a job like this, CWS responded, “The first shower after climbing out of the raw sewage involves hosing down with straight bleach before even taking the dive suit off.”
On another comment about the divers, CWS tweeted, “They sure do work very hard for our customers and the environment!”
Wet wipes have caused problems for sewer systems around the world. A 2015 New York Times story quoted water and sewer officials in New York as saying they had to spend $18 million dollars over five years on wet-wipe-related sewer problems.
Earlier this year the United Kingdom’s environmental minister said he wanted to ban wet wipes, according to the Daily Mail. The newspaper noted that sewer overflows into the Thames River has left mounds of wet wipes in the river as it flows through London, in some places even changing the shape of the historic waterway.
The Sydney, Australia water authority this year won a $700,000 penalty from an Australian company that marketed wet wipes as “flushable” but ended up clogging the sewer system, according to Sydney Water.
Sydney Water said it removes 500 tons of wet wipes from its sewer system each year.
Charles Duncan: 843-712-5297, @duncanreporting