Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) is urging customers to stop flushing paper towels and disinfectant wipes down the toilet. The items clog drains, back up sewers, and cause issues at sewage treatment plants. Toilet paper is in short supply in some areas due to high demand caused by the coronavirus situation.
“Whether it’s baby wipes or bathroom wipes, the word ‘flushable’ indicates the strong fiber wipes are supposed to disintegrate before reaching a wastewater treatment facility,” explains John Mrozek, LCU wastewater deputy director. “Instead, wipes arrive intact and often wind themselves into ropes that get tangled into wastewater treatment equipment and can break screens that are intended to filter out larger pieces of debris in the wastewater.”
There is a simple solution to the problem: Don’t flush them. Instead, dispose of wipes in the trash and avoid using paper towels as toilet paper.
Carlos Almaraz, wastewater operations, explains, “The wipes can plug up pumps at lift stations and wastewater treatment facilities, they can damage equipment and clog screens. LCU has to bring out the vactor truck to vacuum the wipes out of the system.”
While toilet paper starts disintegrating as soon as it hits the water, the strong-fiber wipes do not break apart, and can cause havoc all along the way to the wastewater treatment plants.
Homeowners may not realize service lines from the home into the City sewer are generally only 3 or 4 inches in diameter, with several “elbows” or sharp bends in the service lines, creating smaller places where things might get hung up. This can cause a backup from the sewer into the home.
“There are lots of things that should not be flushed down the drain,” says Mrozek, “Add paper towels and wipes to the list.”
For more information, call Las Cruces Utilities at 575/528-3500.
City of Las Cruces news releases are available on the home page of the City website at las-cruces.org under News & Announcements and can be translated into Spanish and multiple other languages using the Select Language feature on the lower right side of the page.