The filter screen seen here is covered in “ragging” – scores of disposable wipes and other products that have been flushed down the toilet. This pump, part of the by-pass system at the 15 Mile Road Sewer Collapse worksite, loses capacity as wipes clog the screens around the pump or bind up at the pump’s motor. Everytime this needs to be cleaned – as often as every two hours during a rain – it costs about $500 in manpower and equipment expenses – expenses eventually passed on to sewer rate payers in the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District.
Ironically, the very quality that makes wipes so attractive from a use standpoint – their ability to hold together when wet – is what causes problems in a sewer system. Whereas toilet paper is designed to biodegrade in water, wipes are specifically designed to hold together.
But aren’t they flushable? Many wipes and similar products are labeled as “flushable”. While they may be flushable, they ARE NOT biodegradable. Wipes should be disposed of in a trash can.
The Macomb County Office of Public Works, in conjunction with your local municipal department of public works and the Great Lakes Water Authority, uses a variety of screens and filters in an attempt to limit the damage these wipes can cause to our system. Of course, no screening system is as good as catching the problem at the source – eliminating the wipes from entering the system in the first place. Use the wipes – just be sure that they end up in the trash after use.