Coronavirus News: Suez reminds residents to not to flush 'flushable wipes' that clog sewer system

PARAMUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- Suez North America is urging all residents throughout its service territories to reject the label on so-called "flushable wipes" or other wipes and dispose of them in the garbage.

Officials say they are clogging sewer systems, and blockages caused by wipes force utility workers to remove them in confined places -- and many times this must be done by hand, which is dangerous and costly.

"These flushable wipes, which are being used by people sometimes to clean door knobs, countertops, and other surfaces, are a growing hazard to public health," Suez CEO Nadine Leslie said. "We fully understand that disinfection is so important now because of COVID-19, but we are seeing a large increase in people disposing of these wipes in their toilet instead of in the garbage."

Many of the wipes are advertised as "just like toilet paper" but cannot disintegrate in the sewerage system, utility officials said, because while wipes might look a bit like toilet paper, there are major differences. Wipes are generally made from a very tough material and are often soaked with cleaning chemicals, disinfectants and even scents.

They say wipes act very differently in sewers to toilet paper and do not readily disintegrate in water, and when in the sewer pipes, these tougher, more resilient wipes have a tendency to entangle with other wipes and create blockages.

Leslie says wipes are not the only waste item that people should not flush down the toilet, pointing out that workers have found many waste objects that should not be flushed -- including cigarette butts, dental floss, hair and unwanted medication.

"Sewers and wastewater systems are designed to dispose of very specific items, and using a toilet as a trash can of convenience products can results in blockages," she said. "The sewer pipes that connect homes to community sewer systems are only wide enough to carry water, toilet paper and human waste."

During the global health crisis, Suez officials are working 24 hours a day ensuring the health and safety of its workforce as they work hard to keep wastewater service running smoothly and efficiently. The company encourages all residents across North America to remember the toilet is not a trash can.

"These are stressful times for everyone, and Suez is doing all we can to continue normal water and wastewater operations," Leslie said. "But we need the help of the community as well. Every day community wastewater cleaning systems capture tons of trash, before it enters and fouls the larger treatment systems. Each and every one of us can help, by maintaining healthy habits, only flushing toilet paper, and tossing everything else into the trash.

Suez offered the following partial list of common household items that should not be flushed:
--Baby or moist bathroom wipes
--Medications, vitamins and supplements
--Facial tissue or paper towels
--Cat litter, coffee grounds, cigarette butts
--Feminine hygiene products of any kind
--Contact lenses or plastics of any kind
--Bandages, wrappers, cotton balls, dental floss
--Cleaning wipes, dust cloths and duster heads

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