DEM reminds Rhode Islanders to properly dispose of disinfectant wipes to prevent sewage backups

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reminded all Rhode Islanders on Thursday to refrain from flushing disinfectant wipes, even if they say “flushable”.

Last week, the Johnston Sewer Department notified the DEM that the main sewer line on Pocasset Street was clogged with a ‘massive ball of wipes and sanitary products’ that had been flushed down a toilet.

Over 30 families that live on Pocasset Street were affected by the situation, as it took maintenance staff over a half-hour to clear.

The DEM said in addition to clogging the sewer pipes, the situation also caused 1,125 gallons of sewage to overflow into the Pocasset River.

“Whether your home or business is connected to the public sewer system or has an onsite wastewater treatment system, you should never flush any type of wipes, including baby wipes and those labeled flushable, down the toilet.  Instead, you should place these products in the trash for proper disposal” the DEM said in a release.

The DEM said flushing wipes can also lead to sewer back-ups in basements, along with damaging communities aging wastewater treatment equipment.

While some disinfectant wipes are labeled as flushable, wipes are manufactured for strength and durability so they do not break down in sewer lines like toilet paper does.

“As we are seeing in Johnston, wipes can clog our sewer systems and cause pump station failures,” said Matthew Puglia, a senior engineer in DEM’s Office of Water Resources – Wastewater Treatment Facility Operations and Maintenance program.  “Globally, nationally, and here in Rhode Island, our wastewater treatment facilities are being affected by the disposal of wipes into sewage systems.  We can all do our part and help avoid sewer overflows by disposing of these wipes in the trash rather than flushing them away.”

For more information on items that should not be flushed, visit the Water Environment Federation website here.


Categories: News, Rhode Island