DEQ advises don’t flush disposable wipes

wastewater treatment plant, Eugene

Even if a disposable wipes have labeling that says they’re “flushable,” they’re not.

The little detail could grow into a big problem if Oregonians don’t properly dispose of disinfectant, baby and other wipes amid the COVID-19 outbreak warns the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

When it comes time to dispose of used wipes stop before you flush them down the toilet, said DEQ Manager Dave Belyea, a septic system expert.

“That’s not where they go,” he said.

Wipes may cause sewage backups in homes. A buildup of wipes in sewer pipes and at wastewater treatment facilities may cause clogs in the system. And wipes can cause havoc for household septic systems, particularly septic systems that rely on pumps to move wastewater.

“Those wipes have huge ramifications if they start going down the toilet by the thousands,” Belyea said. “Just put them in the garbage.”

Questions and answers about disposable wipes

What’s wrong with flushing wipes?

Any kind of wipe other than toilet paper doesn’t break down so wastewater treatment systems will get clogged and not function properly.

What will happen if “flushable” wipes continue to be used? 

Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to process these kinds of products. Sewage pipes will be overloaded and clogged, resulting in potential sewage backups into people’s homes.

People were using these products before the COVID-19 pandemic started.  Why is this a problem now?

With more people working from home, toilets are being used on a more frequent basis. The use of flushable labeled products is increasing, which accelerates the potential damage to wastewater treatment plants and residences.

Are there alternatives to flushing wipes? 

Yes. Put them in the trash.

What are the long term implications of using flushable wipes?

In addition to potential residential sewage backups, wastewater treatment systems can sustain damage, which could result in higher costs for rate payers.

To learn more about DEQ’s response to COVID-19 go to https://ordeq.org/covid-19.

– Dylan Darling, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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