To keep the sewer system flowing freely, don’t flush wipes
Posted on 04/14/2020
DPW workers attend to a repair behind City Hall.With more and more people using wipes of all types, it has become an increasing problem when wipes are flushed down the toilet.

Most wipes are made from synthetic fibers that do not break down in water (sanitary sewers) the way that toilet paper does. When flushed down toilets, which is not advised, these wipes can form wads of non-dissolving synthetic material that create clogs and blockages in sewer lines.

There are many different types of wipes – those used for babies, personal care, cosmetics and cleaning. Disinfectant wipes are considered an essential item for households and businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Many wipes are branded as "flushable," although they are not.

Another problem occurs when wipes become entangled in sewer parts and bind together with other wipes and any grease that’s in the sewer. When backups occur, there’s often a back flow into sewers at households and businesses, which is not only messy but costly.

“We normally see these wipes being a problem for homeowners in their private sewer lines – the connection from the City main to the house,” said Assistant DPW Director Mike Domine. “The DPW has been called out to investigate and the result is the homeowner has to pay for a plumber to come out to clean out their sewer line.

“Plumbers often push these wipes into the City sewer, which requires DPW to clean city sewers. The most impact is downstream where Northville sanitary sewer lines connect with the county sewers. Their sewer pumps stations can get clogged or damaged by these wipes,” he added.

Years ago, Macomb County had a major problem with flushable wipes binding to fats, oils and grease (FOG) in their sewer system, resulting in a fatberg, which restricted sewer flow, increased dangerous sewer gases and caused damage to the sewer lines. See report here.

Remember to put all types of wipes in the trash, do not flush them down the toilet even if the package says they are flushable.

Additional information can be found here:

SEMCOG OneWater: COVID-19 video – Don't flush latex gloves, "flushable wipes," or anything else besides the 3 P's!

Pipes, wipes and clogs special report podcast by WJR reporter Ken Rogulski.

One water (SEMCOG) – public information that includes articles, videos and more.

GLWA video: Flushable Wipes’ Effect on our Sewer System

GLWA website – Fact-filled with everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the water system in southeast Michigan