Adults all around the world people are using flushable wet wipes to freshen up after using the toilet but these convenient little wipes are anything but convenient for at least one sewer pumping station in Queensland, Australia.
The Eleebana sewage pumping station was damaged from a one ton wet wipe blockage that had to be remove from the system. According to Hunter Water “The whole flushable wet wipe issue is actually a global issue.”
The water company used a crane to remove a 7 meter long “snake” composed of the wet wipes and removed an additional 3oo kilos of the wet wipes from the system using buckets.
Marketing materials sate the wet wipes are flushable but in reality they are not. The wipes disappear when they get flushed down the toilet but they do not disintegrate like regular toilet paper. According to Mr. Kaiser from the water company if the wipes did not cause a blockage in the system they would still find their way into the sewer treatment plant where they would get filtered out and sent to the landfill. The wipes can cause havoc and damage anywhere in the system and even once they reach the treatment plant. That is why items like floss, cotton buds, and coffee grounds as well as wet wipes get filtered out of the sewer and sent to the landfills.
Disposable wipes not only block sewage systems they cost utilities tens of millions of dollars annually to remove them. Unfortunately these wipes continue to grow in popularity despite awareness campaigns of the problems they create. While usage of the wet wipes continues to increase both manufacturers and sewage companies are trying to find ways to fix the problem.
According to executive director for the Water Services of Australia this ultimate blockage is referred to as a “fatberg”-a huge mountain of fat and wipes. “Fatbergs are horrible-they’re absolutely huge, tons in weight….and what happens of course these fatbergs contain quite a lot of wipes that makes them even bigger.”
A fatberg in London during 2014 was the size of a double-decker bus and it took 10 days to remove it from under a major road in south-west London. Had the fatberg been left there much longer it would have started to cause a leakage of raw sewage that would have flooded homes, streets and businesses in the area.
These are dangerous blockages that can have repercussions on the infra- structure of cities and the lives of residents.