Be careful what you flush

All the talk is about the OSU Marching Band. Their You Tube video has received over 12 million hits. But what about the new “horror” video called Fatberg? It is a video of a 15-ton collection of wet wipes and fat that collected in the London sewer system. Wastewater professionals are sounding the alarm on the new product being heavily marketed in TV commercials — wet wipes.

At the recent Water Environment Federation Conference in Chicago, manufactures of nonwoven fabrics and wastewater experts participated in a discussion “Wipe out: Reducing the burden of wipes in the pipes.” They are working on standards of what is flushable and are calculating the cost of clogs and sewer backups caused by wrongfully-flushed wipes.

Septic system owners are having backup problems as well. At OSU’s Soil Environment Technology Learning Lab, we test new low-cost wastewater treatment systems to match Ohio’s soils and climate. When one of the systems started backing up, I was worried. Fortunately, the treatment system was working fine, but white sheets were clogging the inlet into the septic tank, backing sewage into the house.

Convenience can be costly

The convenience of flushing wet wipes is costing millions in tax dollars. The Washington, D.C. sanitary sewer system spent a million dollars on shredding equipment. Sanitation workers in Bemus Point, New York, set traps in the sewer line to keep wet wipes from clogging pumps. Using the traps they were able to trace back to homes flushing wet wipes. Letters were mailed to plead with them to stop flushing the fibrous wipes.

To save money and protect the environment, flush only human waste and toilet paper down the drain. Anything else, whether it is wet wipes for babies or adults, should be thrown in the trash.

To learn more about maintaining a septic system ask for Fact Sheet 740 from your local Ohio Extension office. You can also find this and other fact sheets about septic systems on the web site for the Soil Environment Technology Learning Lab under publications at http://setll.osu.edu.

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