Don't Flush Wipes or Paper Towels

Don't Flush Wipes or Paper Towels
Posted on 03/20/2020
The removal of wipes at a wastewater treatment plant.

With the shortage of toilet paper due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people are turning to wipes and paper towels instead. Disinfection wipes are used in every household as people try to sanitize anything and everything 24/7. But before you try to flush them down the toilet, heed this warning: there is no such thing as a flushable wipe.

“They may indeed flush, but they don’t disintegrate,” Pretreatment Manager Nancy Nye said. “Combine that with all the fat, oil and grease in the lines that now has something to attach to, makes for an even bigger blockage.”

Keeping the wastewater system running without interruption is critical during this coronavirus outbreak. To prevent wastewater pipe blockages, avoid flushing anything but toilet paper.

Another item that often clogs the system are children’s toys because unsupervised little ones enjoy seeing items circle down the drain.

“We see big toy blockages at our lift stations,” Wastewater Plant Superintendent Martin Ortiz said. “Our operators have to spend time removing the toys and fixing any damage they cause.”

As the toys travel through the system,other forms of debris like wipes and fats, oils and greases, also known as FOG, cling to them, creating a snowball effect. The blockage just gets larger and larger as it accepts more debris along the way. That is why Nye believes the people of El Paso, the customers who use the wastewater system, can truly be the first line of defense.

“As residents and customers, we have the opportunity to make a huge difference in reducing the number of wastewater back-up incidents and inconveniences,” Nye said, “if we each do our part.”

Other considerations

Removal of wipes at wastewater treatment plantWith restaurants closed and quarantine orders in effect, many people are cooking at home. The last thing anyone wants to think about is the dishwashing that will inevitably follow. But alas, El Paso Water wants you to think about this very important aspect, especially when it comes to disposing of FOG.

“Please be conscientious about what you send down the drain,” said Nye. “Use a paper towel to wipe your plates, utensils, pots and pans. And wipe the food scraps into a trash can instead of the disposal.”

For large quantities of FOG, Code Compliance Manager Sonia Wyatt recommends using non-glass leak-proof containers.

"Use atop, then take the containers to one of the Citizens Collection Stations," she said.

To find out the locations and hours of the Citizen Collection Stations, click here or call 3-1-1.

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