Hilltops Council is experiencing a high volume of rags and wet wipes coming into sewerage treatment plants in the area and is increasingly being called to fix sewer pipe blockages caused by materials that should not be flushed down toilets.
“Wet wipes and rags clogging our sewers and breaking our pumps is one of the daily challenges we face in keeping the Hilltops sewer system operating,” said Hilltops General Manager Dr Edwina Marks.
Everything you pour down the drain or flush down the toilet goes through the sewerage system and it is really important to remember that some things should not enter the sewer system.
Some of the worst culprits are fats, oils and grease. After they are washed down the sink, they quickly cool and solidify, sticking to the walls of the pipes causing blockages. If they mix with other items, such as wet wipes or sanitary products, then blockages can become more serious.
Wet wipes include baby wipes, toilet wipes, body wipes, personal hygiene wipes and cleaning wipes. They are often marketed as “flushable” or biodegradable”, but instead of disintegrating after flushing, like toilet paper, the synthetic wet wipes do not break down, contributing to major blockages in our sewerage network.
The pipes that run from your home to the main sewer are only a few centimetres wide. They can become blocked easily and if blocked, sewage can quickly back up into your street, garden or even your home, causing a dirty and costly mess—which is completely avoidable.
Having to unclog the mess that these products are causing poses a significant cost to the local community—one that is preventable if we all do the right thing.
In the Hilltops Region, there is in average 10 blockages a month caused by wet wipes or rags. The staff time and resources required comes at a high cost to rate payers, more than $1,000/week. For each blockage, Council fitters have to travel to site, lift the pump with a crane truck, dismantle the pump, remove the blockage, re-assemble the pump and put the station back on line.
“Every time there is a blockage, we also risk damaging the pump, the pipework and the electrical equipment. If a blockage occurs on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owner to unblock it. Then there’s the risk of raw sewerage overflow into neighbouring properties or the environment” shared Dr Marks.
Other items that should never be flushed are women’s sanitary products, medical dressings, cotton buds, condoms, colostomy bags and disposable nappies. These materials should be bagged and disposed of in a rubbish bin.
Also making news: