|An image released by the utility company Thames Water company shows
part of a 15-tonne lump of fat and other debris coagulated inside a
main London suburb sewer. Thames Water calls it the biggest
“fatberg” ever recorded in Britain.
After 27 years as a plumber, Benjamin Franklin The Punctual Plumber’s Ty Kontrath has seen almost everything.
“I’ve pulled out toothbrushes, scissors, eye glasses,” Kontrath explained.
But what has become and even bigger nuisance are cleansing wipes that are marketed as flushable. A trade group says wipes are a US $6-billion-a-year industry, with sales of consumer wipes increasing nearly 5% a year since 2007 and expected to grow at a rate of 6% annually for the next five years. Many of his customers flush them down only to be handed a hefty repair bill.
“They say, ‘well why are they allowed to sell them’, and I say ‘well they’re allowed to sell cigarettes and we know they cause cancer‘,” Kontrath said.
Kontrath finds backed up wipes on an almost weekly basis, at times backing water into homes.
But utility workers with Port St. Lucie deal with the wipes that travel farther into the drainage systems, and cause even bigger, more expensive problems.
“It could go into the hundreds of dollars per call,” Donna Rhoden with Port St. Lucie utilities said.
The wipes get stuck in city grinders, which act like a garbage disposal for waste.
“It would get tangled up in there, Rhoden said.” They get jammed when the wipes simply never decompose.
“We have encountered intact wipes that we know have been in that system for a two to three year period of time,” said Rhoden.
Now Port St. Lucie utility workers and plumbers are hoping to see a decrease in wipe-related calls.
“Just use your regular toilet paper. Anything other than that, just wrap it up and throw in the waste pail to avoid a very costly plumbing issue,” advises Kontrath.