Wastewater Operators Plea: Only Flush Toilet Paper

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Krista Paredes

Transmission and Utilities Engineer

Wastewater treatment plant owners and operators across the U.S. are spreading the word to their customers who are at home during the coronavirus outbreak: Don’t flush anything except toilet paper.

Sanitizing wipes, paper towels and even “flushable” baby wipes can and are clogging pipes and sewer systems. The Environmental Protection Agency, along with multiple cities and wastewater utilities are warning residents about the dangers with a Twitter hashtag #WipesClogPipes.

“Being self-quarantined at home can be tough. Being self-quarantined at home with a backed-up sewer is much, much worse,” said Walter E. Marlowe, executive director of the Water Environment Federation, a nonprofit group representing water quality professionals.

Clogs also can cause damage to treatment plant equipment or cause backups into community waterways, officials warn.

Water and wastewater treatment staff are considered essential workers during this time of restrictions on movement and stay-at-home orders. Workers continue trying to respond to problems. But in some cases, facilities also are operating with reduced staff, so utilities are urging their residents to avoid putting additional strains on the system.

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Krista Paredes, P.E., is a Transmission and Utilities Engineer in Raleigh.