No Wipes Down the Pipes Campaign Continues
Though the toilet paper panic of a few weeks ago seems to have subsided, Marshfield’s Wastewater Treatment Facility has noticed an increase in items coming into the facility that shouldn’t be – including disposable wipes, paper towels, and other non-toilet paper items.
“When people went from using toilet paper to wipes, they probably had never used wipes before,” said Sam Warp, Jr, Wastewater Superintendent. “They had never crossed that bridge before, so maybe didn’t know what shouldn’t be flushed.”
The plant has special step screens that help collect items coming through the system before they can reach the reservoirs and subsequently cause damage to the system. Those screens have been working overtime lately, with items being collected there quickly filling up the dumpsters.
“The only three things that should go down the toilet are the three P’s: pee, poop, and toilet paper. Nothing else. No wipes, no Kleenex or facial tissue, no paper towels, no feminine hygiene products, no medicine,” said Warp. “Everything but toilet paper should go in the garbage. Even down here, once we screen the stuff out, we put it in a dumpster and it goes in the landfill. It’s all going to end up in the same place, so just put it in the garbage to start with.”
Though a wipe might say it is “flushable,” that doesn’t mean it should be flushed.
“Flushable just means that if you throw it in the toilet and you hit the lever, it’ll disappear,” said Warp. “But it’s not what ‘flushable’ means in our industry. We mean it as anything that can be broken down naturally. And wipes will not break down. Even facial tissue that you blow your nose on doesn’t break down in the system.”
Marshfield’s Wastewater Treatment Facility uses a unique natural bacterial system to process waste, so any disturbance to that natural balance can be very disruptive.
“Our step screens are good, but not 100%. It would make life a lot nicer if people didn’t flush anything they weren’t supposed to,” said Warp. “Once a year, we usually end up going down to a valve in the system. The guys were recently down there and had to put a harness on and put rope around a big mass of rags, which they pulled out and put it in the dumpster.”
Because toilet paper stocks are slowly being replenished locally, Warp doesn’t see the problem increasing as people return to using toilet paper, but he does take responsibility to educate everyone of the importance of “No Wipes Down the Pipes.”
“The other thing that we’re pushing for in 2020 is “no grease or wipes down the pipes,” added Warp. “The grease, if it slows down enough in the system, will float and congeal and grab any rag that comes down. This creates a bigger problem. There are certain parts of town that are worse than others.”
Aside from an increase in step screen action, it is business as usual for the treatment plant during the pandemic.
“We have some construction going on right now,” said Warp. “Every year, we’re doing some construction to spend just a little bit each year instead of having one big price tag at one point. The plant is over 20 years old and nothing lasts forever.”