Unexpected Coronavirus Consequence; People Clogging Sewage Systems With Disinfectant Wipes

Apr 14, 2020

It seems like the thing to do.  You use a disinfectant wet wipe, and you toss it in the toilet.  Right?  That’s actually wrong.  It’s an issue causing problems for wastewater treatment systems on the Central and South Coasts.  People are using wet wipes in record numbers because of coronavirus.  But, they can create problems for your sewer system, and for wastewater treatment facilities.

Mike McNutt is with the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves more than 70,000 people from parts of the Conejo Valley to Calabasas.  He says the wipes can cause unique problems for wastewater treatment systems, because they can clog pumps used to move waste. 

They require operators to periodically clean out parts of the system.  But, because of the flood of wipes being used, those cleanouts have gone from once a month to once a week.

There’s currently a push in the State Assembly to make wipe makers mark the packages as non-flushable.  It’s usually somewhere on currently packaging, but in small print on the back where no one will notice it.

There’s another big problem as well, in the form of paper towels.  The toilet paper shortage has many people thinking about alternatives.  McNutt says paper towels are not a good one, because they are made not to dissolve in water easily. 

He says while it may seem a distasteful, if paper towels are used in lieu of toilet paper, you should throw them away in the trash, instead of in a toilet.