BREWER – So-called “flushable” wipes have proven to be an expensive problem for the city of Brewer. Now, city officials are offering advice to residents before they head to the store.
There’s something city officials in Brewer want you to know before you go.
“Even if it says flushable, don’t believe it,” said City Councilor Michele Daniels.
She’s referring to materials like baby wipes, disinfectant wipes or toilet wipes that when flushed down your toilet are costing the city tens of thousands of dollars.
“Probably 90 percent of the wipes that are out there do not biodegrade or break down in the sewer,” said Kenneth Locke, environmental department director for the city of Brewer.
Instead, Locke said, they clog the pump stations and machinery at the waste water treatment plant.
“We take tons of them per year off our bar racks,” Locke said.
In an experiment at the treatment plant Friday, Locke demonstrated how the different types of wipes react to water, showing which ones break down and which ones don’t.
“One says baby wipes without ‘flushable’ label, then there’s the baby wipe that’s flushable,” Locke said. “They’re pretty much the same stuff.”
While toilet paper and the toilet paper-branded wipes eventually disintegrated, the others did not.
It’s been a problem for the city for about 15 years, costing them manpower and money to fix.
Locke says it accounts for about 75 percent of pump station repair costs.
“We get pump damage all the time, because it over-torques the pumps and causes the motors to burn up and stuff like that,” said Locke. “So there’s a significant amount of money spent each year, just because of the wipes in the sewer system.”
It’s something that surprised Brewer’s newest city councilors.
“It shocked both of us, the amount of money that the city and this department puts into removing wipes that shouldn’t be there in the first place,” said Daniels, while standing next to City Councilor Soubanh Phanthay.
Now, they’re working to get the word out, letting residents know what to flush — and what not to — in an effort to save the city and taxpayers money.
“You can make the change,” Phanthay said. “You care about the environment, this is one big way that you can help the city of Brewer.”