Those moist 'flushable wipes' being heavily marketed as the 21st Century version of toilet paper are making life miserable for the San Antonio sewer system, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Anne Hayden of the San Antonio Water System says the wipes are clogging up the sewers like nothing sewer workers have seen before, leading to dozens of clogs, and forcing sewer workers to climb down into the muck to fish what she described as a 'rope like mass' out of the pipes.
"These wipes don't break down the way toilet paper does," she says. "They can either catch on the inside of pipes or combine with other wipes or even with grease."
Technically, the wipes fail to disintegrate in the sewer system because they are covered with moist lotion. That makes them travel faster through the city's sewer pipes so they don't have enough time to break down like slower moving dry toilet paper.
"It really causes a problem in our pumps where we have lift stations which lift sewage up to different levels, as well as in filters," Hayden says.
She says the wipes, which maker Kimberly-Clark is selling on ubiquitous ads, are similar to the wipes which have been available for decades to clean up diaper wearing babies. But these wipes are marketed for use by adults instead of what the maker dismissively calls 'old fashioned, dry' toilet paper, and they are said to be the hygienic bathroom advance for the new century.
"Sewage never stops flowing," Hayden said. "Unfortunately, when sewage stops flowing, you can't turn it off."
The SAWS sewer system is troubled as it is, and is under a consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make upgrades which have led to an increasing number of sewer spills in recent years. Sewer repairs are at the heart of the rate increase SAWS is requesting from City Council for 2014.