Amid coronavirus toilet paper shortage, experts warn against using ‘flushable’ wipes

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THORNTON, Colo. (KDVR) -- Amid the coronavirus toilet paper shortage, sewer experts say more folks are using flushable wipes.

However, those wipes are wreaking havoc on some Colorado sewer systems.

The packaging says “flushable,” but sewer inspectors say that is misleading because the wipes don’t break down.

“I think people are trusting the packaging that it says flushable and what people need to understand is these things are physically flushable -- they’ll go down your toilet -- but then they will stop somewhere,” Lisa Wilson, communications content supervisor with the city of Thornton said.

On Wednesday night, Wilson said a pump at the Thornton Big Dry Pump Station shutdown after flushable wipes clogged the system.

“Huge sanitation districts are being bombarded by flushable wipes,” Geoff Kostelecky, owner of Drain Brain LLC said.

Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, toilet-paper-strapped residents are flushing wipes, baby wipes, make-up remover wipes and even paper towel down the toilet. 

Kostelecky said he is seeing this problem firsthand.

“We did one last week where we pulled out four-, five-gallon buckets of wipes."

Flushable wipes can also clog up plumbing at your home, leading to a costly visit from a plumber.

“You as a homeowner are responsible for your sewer lateral and the connection to the city, so you’re responsible all the way out to the street.”

Kostelecky said if you are on a septic tank system, you need to be even more cautious about what you put down.

“If you’re on a septic tank, you should really be using the septic approved toilet paper or single ply.”

Bottom line: have a conversation with your family – and only flush toilet paper.

According to Greeley wastewater officials, a good rule of thumb is only to flush the three P's: toilet paper, pee and poop. Keep all other materials out of toilets and drains.

Following these suggestions will help avoid clogged pipes at residents’ homes.

It will also help prevent wastewater collection overflows into the streets and the Poudre River that further compromise public health.  

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