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Royal Flush

September 26, 2013
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

Despite the title of this piece, it isn't about poker. For starters, I'm not good at poker, because for some reason, I?don't possess a poker face.

Now, exactly what that requires, I?don't know, so we'll move onward.

Now, I'm sure you've seen these little signs someplace, either on someone's desk in an office, hanging on the wall over a cubicle or even in a restroom "The job isn't finished 'til the paper work is done."

Keep that thought in mind for a moment.

While on my weekly search for column ideas, this topic caught my eye, not because it could be considered a little questionable, but because it appears to be a growing problem across the country.

This story is about those increasingly popular bathroom wipes the little pre-moistened towelettes that are usually advertised as flushable. They also are used as baby wipes, to help clean up when the littlest family member makes those cute little faces that lead to something not so cute on the other end.

Sadly, these convenient little towelettes aren't turning out to be the most helpful little things. In the real world, such is not the case.

Officials of wastewater facilities across the United States say those wipes may go down the toilet, but even though they're labeled flushable, they don't break down and decompose instead, they clog up pumps and cost sewer utilities a lot of money to unclog pipes and pumps of flushable wipes.

Anyhow, as the use of these "convenient" wipes has grown, so have problems with sewer systems, because a lot of the wiped are made from plastic products that do not break down in a sewer. The list of cities troubled by wipes is not small: Vancover Washington; Montgomery and Prince George Counties in Maryland; Orange County California; Waukesha, Wisconsin and Sitka, Alaska have all spent huge sums of money to install special grinders to try and destroy the wipes as they pass through their sewer systems, but all still battle the problems.This is the real deal, folks. In some communities, officials actually traced the wipes back to households, knocked on the doors and politely asked folks to quit flushing the wipes.

Now there's an old joke - you'd call somebody's house and when they answer, you'd state, (sounding very official) "This is the Sewage Treatement Plant, and we've had about enough out of you!" and they you hang up, laughing hysterically.


Some communities have been mailing out flyers asking residents not to flush their wipes. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, an organization representing some 300 wastewater agencies, says it's been getting complaints about wipes from sewer systems for about the last four years.

Now, these little wipes are big business. They're touted as a better answer than good old-fashioned bathroom tissue. These wipes are about a $6 billion a year business, so that's not pocket change.

But maybe the most notable illustration of the problem was found in London, England, when the

Metropolitan Sewer Authority had to remove a "bus-sized lump" of wipes mixed with cooking grease from a main sewer line. The lump was named the 'fatberg' by the English Press.

Witty folks, those British journalists.

The hope of sewer authorities is that manufacturers of wipes will come up with a way to make a wipe that wipes itself out disintegrates after a period of time.

But until then, sewer operators ask people to restrain from flushing items other than basic bodily waste down toilets.

Don't blush, be careful what you flush!



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