NJAW warns against flushing sanitizing and ‘flushable’ wipes

CAMDEN, NJ — With hand hygiene at the top of everyone’s minds and toilet paper in high demand, many households are increasing their use of sanitizing wipes and “flushable” wipes. However, New Jersey American Water is telling customers not to flush these wipes down the toilet. Flushing wipes, paper towels or other paper products not intended for use in wastewater systems down the toilet can lead to sewer backups and in-home plumbing issues that may be expensive to repair. Even wipes labeled as “flushable” or “biodegradable” can cause backups for sewer utilities and headaches for homeowners.

“Many sewer blockages occur between your house and our sewer main in the street, where the property owner is responsible for correcting and paying for the repair,” said Manoj Patel, senior manager of production for NJAW’s statewide sewer. “During this already stressful time, we want to help our customers avoid blockages that could create costly plumbing emergencies.”

Patel added that improper disposal can also cause problems in the local sewer collection system and treatment plants. 

“Your dedicated local wastewater system employees continue to come to work every day and make sure your community’s sewage is being properly treated,” he said. “We provide an essential service, so please help us out by putting wipes, paper towels and other products in the trash where they belong, not in your sewer system where they can damage our equipment and cause blockages. Wet wipes combined with fat, grease and other solids deposited in the sewer main creates a huge clog, a condition known as a fatberg. Fatbergs are very difficult to remove and cause damage to the pipes, requiring costly repairs.”

In addition to wipes, NJAW also warns against pouring grease, fat or oil down the drain. When washed down the drain, grease and oil can adhere to the insides of the pipes that carry the wastewater from homes and businesses to the sewer treatment facility. Over time, this buildup of grease can restrict the flow of wastewater, leading to blockages that can cause sewage overflows or backups in homes and businesses. It can also have an adverse effect on the environment if the overflow enters local rivers, lakes and streams. Also, detergents that claim to dissolve grease may pass it down the line and cause problems in other parts of the wastewater system.