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Suez: Stop flushing cleaning wipes down the toilet, because they clog the sewer system

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Increased use of cleaning wipes to disinfect surfaces — brought on by the coronavirus pandemic — is causing problems in municipal sewer systems.

Suez, Middletown’s public water and sewer provider, is asking residents to not throw so-called “flushable wipes” down your toilet, but to throw them out in the trash.

The wipes are clogging sewer systems and blockages caused by the wipes cause utility workers to remove them in confined places. Many times this must be done by hand, which is dangerous and costly, Suez North America said in a press release Monday.

“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,” said Nadine Leslie, CEO for Suez North America. “We fully understand that disinfection is especially 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.” 

According to Suez, many of the wipes are advertised as being just like toilet paper, but they do not disintegrate in the sewage system.

The wipes might resemble toilet paper, but are generally made from a very tough material, and are often soaked with cleaning chemicals, disinfectants and sometimes, even scents.

Since wipes act very differently in sewer pipes than toilet paper, they have a tendency to get caught up with other wipes and create blockages, Suez said.

These wipes are not the only waste item people should not be flushing down the toilet. Leslie said that Suez workers find many waste objects that should not be flushed, such as 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 for convenience products can results in blockages,” Leslie said. “The sewer pipes that connect homes to community sewer systems are only wide enough to carry water, toilet paper and human waste.”