Our Waste Water Treatment System Does Not Need Wipes!

By Steve Barratt Cross St Warrimoo Bushcare & Streamwatch

Flushable wipes are fast becoming a major problem for our sewers and treatment plants. These products do not disintegrate when they are flushed down the sewer. The only product that does not remain intact and clog up the system is toilet paper. Regardless of manufacturer’s claims, wipes, tissues or any product other than toilet paper should not be flushed into our sewers. A better option is to avoid the use of wipes and put tissues in the garbage bin.

Flushing inorganic matter such as plastic down the sewer creates problems as it does not break down and will enter local creeks to threaten the ecosystem. This is a particular problem with plastic beads found in some cleansing scrubs as they cannot be separated from the rest of the effluent. We can help to solve this problem by avoiding the use of these products or only buying those products containing organic abrasive materials.

If excessive stormwater enters the sewer pipes, waste water will invariably flow through the plant before the treatment process is complete. It is far easier to prevent entry of stormwater into the sewer system than to try to control the impact once it reaches the treatment plant. Everyone should ensure that their downpipes are connected to the stormwater system, not the sewer.

Disposing of excessive organic matter down the drains is a poor practice as it can overload the system and delay the proper decomposition of the waste. Oils, fats and other food scraps should be either composted or wrapped and placed in the garbage bin.

Disinfectant, bleach, etc. not only kill pathogens but also valuable bacteria required for the treatment process.  Washing products should be phosphorus free, produce minimal suds and used sparingly. Phosphorus is difficult to remove from the effluent and if not removed, can result in algal blooms in receiving waters. Suds can carry untreated organic material through the treatment plant. The use of excessive amounts of washing product achieves little additional benefit so if the washing water feels slippery, there is no need to add any more product.

We should not use the sewerage system as a dumping ground for all our waste products. By adopting better practices we can contribute to a cost effective waste water treatment system that produces an effluent that is safe to dispose of to the environment.

Wipes that had blocked a domestic drain. Photo courtesy of Sydney Water

Wipes that had blocked a domestic drain. Photo courtesy of Sydney Water

Wipes in environment

Wipes that overflowed into a creek from a drain they’d blocked. Photo courtesy of Sydney Water