Officials: Non-flushables can damage infrastructure, hike utility bills

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Veolia Lead Operator Adam King scoops wipes and rags out from a grate at the wastewater treatment plant in Alpena on Thursday. Veolia employees say baby wipes and other items flushed down the toilet cause damage to water and sewer infrastructure and increase the cost of operations, which could lead to higher utility bills.

ALPENA — What people flush down their toilets and their drains can impact what they pay for water and sewer rates, Veolia officials say.

Alpena city government contracts Veolia to manage the city’s water and sewer operations and the contractor is spreading the word that maintenance, repair, and equipment replacement costs are headed upward because people continue to flush materials that they shouldn’t.

Mike Collins, Veolia utilities manager, said a large volume of items such as baby wipes and other items like paper towel and grease don’t break down during the sanitation process and disrupt operations and damage equipment.

He said the cost for repairs and labor force officials to charge more when rates are established.

Collins said there has been a large increase in the number of baby wipes flushed and sent into the sewer system. He said the marketing for them may claim they are safe to flush, but that is not the case.

“The system isn’t intended to carry them through the pipes, not designed to pump them,” he said. “The wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove them and they don’t biodegrade. They plug and destroy pumps, lift stations, and clog up all types of aspects of the treatment process.”

Collins said that, when items like baby wipes become stuck in the system, it leads to sewer backups, which can cause unpleasant sewer flooding into people’s homes and neighborhoods.

An ordinance in Alpena forbids people from flushing anything that isn’t one of the “three Ps,” Collins said: Pee, poop, and paper.

“There could be fines levied on customers for flushing these things in the future if they damage lift stations,” he said.

Veolia Lead Operator Adam King said that, when pumps become plugged, they need to be shut down and torn apart so the plug can be cleaned. He said that is very labor-intensive because it is done by hand and it can be a safety issue.

Operations Manager Bob Roznowski explained how plugged pumps can be harmful to employees and residents.

“There could be something sharp, something infectious — and, really, everything we are dealing with is infectious,” he said. “If we cut ourselves, we are at a high risk of infection if something like a needle is lodged in a pump.”

Most of the debris flushed unlawfully is eventually scooped up and sent to a landfill. Collins said one piece of equipment, called a digester, which holds 300,000 gallons of sewerage, could have as much as 100,000 gallons of that space occupied by wipes and rags.

“We have to drain that, pump those somewhere, let them dry, and get them to a landfill,” Collins said. “All of this costs money and time and costs keep going up and up.”

Roznowski gave another tip to customers. He said cheaply priced toilet paper, which is normally thinner, dissolves easier and more quickly than some of the thicker, more premium toilet paper. He said people should use toilet paper like they do in their campers to avoid plugging and backups.

“If you buy the top-price, name-brand paper, it is incredibly heavy and doesn’t break down,” Roznowski said. “The cheaper stuff breaks down. There is a significant difference in your own household.”

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox

Officials: Non-flushables can damage infrastructure, hike utility bills

If you have any question please CONTACT  Us
Email us at:
Call US : (832) 722-8074

Don’t Forget to Visit our Shop 

For reliable and quality Managed IT Services and VoIP, Contact Precise Business Solutions 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *