BY MELANIE BUCK –
Often we find ourselves with backed-up sewer lines and calling a service company to come clean them or septic systems out only to find that some item was ‘flushed’ that really shouldn’t have been. Sometimes these items are common sense items, but others are seemingly flushable and harmless. However, according to Mena Water Utilities Manager, Charles Pitman, some of those ‘harmless’ items are actually quite the contrary.
Flushable wipes are one such item that causes serious problems on not just septic systems, but also sewer plants. Pitman explained that his first encounter with flushable wipes was as a new homeowner. “They had all caught up on a tree root and in addition to digging out the wads of wipes, I had to repair my line and disinfect my bathtub.”
He explained further, “The problem is usually that one item didn’t make its way out of your service line because they weren’t made to float. They find a place to start collecting and before long, there’s far more than any size pipe could ever handle.” He said the buildup is what causes drains to begin to overflow into yards, a ditch, or even the street.
Pitman said there are many other items consumers flush that cause issues as well. Hypodermic needles, condoms, and feminine hygiene products are items that are found quite often in service lines and many times, at the sewer plant itself. “Hypodermic needles are an example of something that should never be flushed,” he explained. “Nor should they be thrown away. There are too many chances of someone getting hurt with used needles.” Pitman suggests that if you are unsure how to properly dispose of hypodermic needles, to contact your doctor’s office, pharmacy, or the Polk County Sheriff’s Department. He also suggests proper disposal of all items.
“In short, unless you properly dispose of these things, chances are pretty good that it will be causing problems for yourself, or someone else,” said Pitman. “And remember, that when any of those things gets backed up, whether in your lines or at the sewer plant, someone has to dig it out, sometimes by hand. If it doesn’t start disintegrating before it leaves the customer’s service line, chances are good that it will cause someone a disgusting problem.”