Q: I’ve recently read some articles which say that utility companies, municipal water companies and the treatment plants etc., are “freakin’-out” because folks have started to flush all kinds of pre-moistened towelettes down the toilet. This wasn’t so much of a problem in the past. Apparently these can cause havoc all the way down the plumbing system at the treatment plants. What’s the deal with this? Is it really that bad? Can it affect my plumbing lines or only the municipal systems? Is toilet paper the only thing I should ever flush down the toilet?
A: The short answer is YES the treatment plants are “freaking out!” Unfortunately, this translates into higher rates for everyone because they have to structure & modify their equipment to deal with all of these so-called “flushable” over-the-counter products like wipes, cat litter, female sanitary products etc. The main issue is this stuff does not macerate well like human waste and toilet paper. (Sorry for the visual!)
Eventually everything makes it to a pump system or means of mechanically moving, sorting & filtering (the raw sewer). Some of these “wipes” are just short of a cloth rag. “Flushable” in that it will flush and go down but it’s no good for any part of the system down the line. Plumbers joke around the water cooler about how great these products are for keeping us very busy!
The flushable cat litter is just as bad or worse because it absorbs a ton of water & swells up. This can cause havoc in the plumbing system!
When I walk down the aisle at the supermarket and see a new “flushable” product, I pause to thank the manufacturer for their patronage. This used to bother me more when I lived in a neighborhood forced to pay sewer rates, but now I have a private septic system!
The Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code addresses this issue: (Oregon plumbing specialty code chapter 3 – 306.1)