Wipes in the Pipes: Flushable Wet Wipes Are Wreaking Havoc on Pottstown's Sewage System

What to Know

  • Pottstown's Wastewater Treatment Plant is being inundated with wipes that are clogging up the system.
  • Last year alone, the borough spent about $120,000 cleaning up dirty wipes in its wastewater system & making repairs.
  • A grant to improve equipment hopefully will help mash up the mess and save workers time spent fishing out the dirty wipes.

Personal hygiene wipes may make for a more satisfying bathroom experience, but they're proving to be damaging to one Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, town's sewage system.

Pottstown spent around $120,000 last year fixing broken machinery and fishing out clumps of the so-labeled flushable wipes from traps and pumps at the borough's wastewater plant.

"They come into the plant just as they left your toilet," said Jason Skimski, a worker at the Pottstown treatment plant. "It wreaks havoc."

Despite being labeled as biodegradable and flushable, there's a well-documented history of wet wipes failing to disintegrate before they reach sewage facilities. One town, Wyoming, Minnesota, filed a lawsuit against a wipe manufacturer arguing tests that certify the wipes as flushable do not mimic real-life conditions, according to The Atlantic.

The issue has gotten so bad in Pottstown that the town has dedicated a dumpster outside the plant for depositing the impassable wet wipes.

"We try to remove them, grind them, and cut them. There's only so much that you can do," Skimski said.

Local plummer Mike Krasley with Krasley Plumbing and Heating says he's seen a huge increase in wipe-related clogs inside homes and businesses recently.

"It used to be a toy in the toilet or the tooth brush dropped into the toilet," Krasley said. "Ninety percent of the time it is the wipes. It's a growing, growing problem."

Skimski said the town doesn't expect to see the issue go away anytime soon. They've applied for a $500,000 grant to upgrade the treatment plant so they can better break down the wipes.

In the meantime, they urge residents to stop flushing wipes down the toilet.

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