'It's messy': Flushed wipes blocking B.C. sewers
Published Friday, May 13, 2016 3:08PM PDT
Like potty training for adults, Metro Vancouver officials are trying educate residents on what happens when supposedly “flushable” wipes go down the pipes.
A regional campaign, cheekily nicknamed "Toilet Training," aims to stop those in the area from flushing wipes down the toilet, an issue that’s costing the region about $250,000 annually. Country-wide, the problem costs Canada $25 million per year.
Metro Vancouver's general manager of liquid waste services told CTV News that the problem isn't with the individual wipes, but what happens when they enter the sewer system.
"They can bind with other stuff in the sewers like hair and dental floss and rags, and they can become a big sized ball, which can clog sewers, clog pumps and equipment," Simon So said Friday.
So said the wipes don't break down the way toilet paper does, and crews have to unclog the pumps in the region's 33 pumping stations as many as three times a week because of flushed wipes.
"Obviously it's not a pleasant experience," he said.
"It takes a lot of work. It's messy and it can be smelly, but it's something that they have to do."
Though So admitted that other flushed items, like rags, can cause clogs, he said wipes are the biggest problem because of the quantity crews are finding. He added that if a clog isn't fixed, sewage can back up into basements of homes and commercial buildings.
"Worse is it could back up into streams and rivers, into the environment, which would be really harmful."
He said there is nothing wrong with using wipes, but that even products labeled "flushable" need to be thrown in the garbage and not the toilet.
The packaging on many wipes claim that they break down in sewer systems, but So said his experience is that most do not decompose.
He said that he is working with other Canadian cities to develop a country-wide standard that companies must meet in order to call their products flushable.
"I think there are some wipes that are better than others, but I would not trust the label."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's St John Alexander