With more people staying at home, the city’s sewer system has seen issues caused by mistreatment of household items.
Flushable wipes are convenient but they are not as described. While pre-packaged wipes advertise they are safe to be disposed via flushing the toilet, Alexander City sewer inspector Doug Jones said they create nothing but issues after the user disposes of them.
“They clog up the sewer system,” Jones said. “Unlike toilet paper, they don’t deteriorate. When they get caught up on the smallest thing, they hang up everything else creating a blockage.”
Jones said toilet paper starts to deteriorate the moment it comes into contact with water but the wipes are causing damage across Alexander City’s more than 150 miles of sewer lines.
“We are finding them everywhere,” Jones said. “If they make it to the treatment plant at Sugar Creek and get into the pumps, they become a huge problem.”
Jones said before Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders, the flushable wipes were not as big of a problem, but the issue has recently grown.
“It was already an issue,” Jones said. “Now with more people home, we are getting more and more calls about blockages and sewage backing up into homes.”
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The blockages are not just in the city’s lines. Jones said the wipes are blocking service lines that are coming from residents’ homes.
Wipes are not the only things clogging city sewer lines. Grease has been an ongoing issue and Jones said the department is seeing more complaints related to people putting grease down drains as more people are at home.
“We have seen a little spike in grease stopping up sewer lines,” Jones said. “At the moment it seems to be near the homes of the older population as they have been cooking more in the last few weeks. The younger population is still eating out for the most part.”
Jones said the city has a program to help eliminate grease from the sewer. At its Railey Road office, the Alexander City Sewer Department has containers to dispose of grease. Jones said a few apartment complexes across the city have the containers as well.
When it comes to the wipes, Jones said it’s not just Alexander City having an issue with them and he has a solution.
“It’s not just us; it’s all municipalities with a sewage system,” Jones said. “Just because they say they are flushable, don’t do it. They just need to be thrown away.”