By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–A 3 On Your Side warning tonight about wipes, those handy pre-moistened towels that are getting more and more popular. Plumbers say many people make a big mistake when disposing of them. That’s causing serious problems that could cost you big.
We use them for cleaning, taking off makeup, and everything in between. But there’s a problem with these popular wipes.
A man trying to rip a wipe in half couldn’t do it: “You can’t rip that.”
Those strong wipes don’t dissolve. Collingswood plumber Kevin Sheridan, owner of Sheridan Plumbing and Heating, says they can get tangled in your drain line and clog it.
“Wipes are not able to get past root intrusion like regular paper should,” Sheridan said.
That’s causing major plumbing problems for homeowners all across the country. The worst-case scenario is a bill for hundreds of dollars and a big mess.
It’s a problem for sewage plants too. Rob Villee, executive director of a New Jersey-area sewage authority, explained, “They wrap up inside the pumps. They form a blockage and the pump no longer works so instead of pumping the sewage, it starts backing up.”
Experts say most wipes are not biodegradable, so they don’t break down in our sewage systems. Villee has tested many of the wipes on the market today and demonstrated, starting with toilet paper.
“As you see, it starts breaking up into pieces,” he said. But when a wipe is tossed in the toilet, “it comes out in one piece.”
Wipes that manage to get through end up at the end of the line, a wastewater treatment plant, where water gets cleaned and recycled back into the system.
Carter Strickland is the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection. He said, “In the last few years, we’ve seen companies market wipes as so-called flushable. If they make it through your toilet and your pipes without clogging it, it ends up here.”
Some wastewater treatment plans are overwhelmed by wipes sending shipping containers to landfills, millions of dollars in extra costs.
The wipes industry itself acknowledges the problem that some wipes are labeled “flushable” that probably should not be.
“It says flushable right on the package,” Sheridan said. “It says flushable, people are flushing them. They’re a little disappointed when they get the bill that that’s what causing the problem.”
The industry has developed new standards to determine if wipes can be flushed. It’s also calling for manufacturers to use a “Do Not Flush” logo prominently on those wipes that can’t.