Wipes causing a ‘string’ of problems in GR sewers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — We’re all doing our best to keep our own little corner of the world clean and sanitized.

But those efforts may be causing bigger problems down the line — the sewer line.

At the Grand Rapids wastewater treatment plant, sanitizing wipes used to clean your home are causing a string of problems. More specifically, a string of twisted collection of disinfectant wipes and other paper products.

“They kind of string out the same way you would want them in the chain of your bike or your car, in those mechanical components, it’s the same things,” said Nicole Pasch, acting assistant environmental services manager for Grand Rapids. “We’re seeing those strings in our pumps around the system, and it’s just not good. It causes backups. It causes extra maintenance. We’re doing our best to make sure our essential services are still provided at optimal levels.”

Pasch says while the package may say flushable, that only means it won’t jam your toilet. But the sewer systems are another story.

Toilet paper is thin and meant to break up into tiny pieces in water that don’t clog up pipes and pumps. However, wipes, paper towels and other paper products are different.

“They’re just not meant to disperse the same way. They don’t break down into tiny pieces that can go through the pump and mechanical equipment,” Pasch said.

She says the wipes have always been a problem for wastewater systems.

But with everybody waging war on germs these days and communities trying to make sure critical health and safety components like sewage treatment plants are running at optimal levels, they could use a little help from the public.

“Everybody is maybe a little bit intimidated right now,” Parch said. “They’re doing their best to sanitize. And, it’s an awareness thing more than anything.”

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