Wipes in pipes clogging sewer systems
Tweed Shire Council (TSC) has welcomed news that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched legal action against the manufacturers of ‘flushable’ wet wipes.
The ACCC is taking legal action against two manufacturers on the grounds that labelling the wipes ‘flushable’ is misleading, as it suggests consumers can safely flush them down the toilet.
“This is great news not only for Tweed Shire Council but for all local government and water authorities worldwide,” said Manager Water and Wastewater Anthony Burnham.
“Wet wipes clogging our sewers and breaking our pumps is one of the daily challenges we face in keeping the Tweed’s sewer system operating.
“Every day we are called to an average of 20 blockages and most of them are caused by materials that should never be flushed, including wet wipes.
Photo: Water Engineer Elizabeth Seidl demonstrates that wet wipes do not break down (jar on left) like toilet paper does (jar on right). The wipe has remained intact in the water for five months to date.
“Australia-wide, the wet wipes problem is estimated to be costing the community up to $15 million a year in fees to remove the items from sewers, pump stations and treatment plants.”
Here in the Tweed, it takes two workers and a truck up to two hours to clear a blockage.
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, not to mention the excess power used by the pump trying to push the blockage through,” said Mr Burnham.
Council believes the legal action is a step forward in tackling the issue of consumers flushing these products, which do not break down.
“The next step is to educate consumers to keep wipes out of our pipes,” said Mr Burnham.
“It’s a message we hope will be heard loud and clear because if that blockage occurs on private property, it is the property owner who has to pay to unblock it. Then there’s the risk of raw sewerage overflow into neighbouring properties or the environment.”
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.
To view media releases online visit http://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/MediaCentre/MediaCentre.aspx
– ends –