Wet wipes on the rise

Water News

Mark fleming water and wastewater shed 6

 Council’s Wastewater Fitter, Mark is passionate about his job and keeping wet wipes out of our sewer system. 

How long have you been working at Council? Five and a half years.

What does a typical day for you involve? Pumpstation maintenance, upgrading pumps, cleaning our wet wells, installing new pumps – mixed with break downs and a lot of problem solving!

What is a pumpstation? It’s basically a collection point that pumps our community’s wastewater to our treatment plants.

Why can’t wipes be flushed down the toilet? There’s so many different wipes available these days - baby wipes, wet wipes, makeup wipes and cleaning wipes but none of them should be flushed because they never break down. Even if they say ‘flushable’!

What happens when someone flushes a wipe? It’s likely to cause a blockage at one of three places: 

  1. Within the property’s own plumbing
  2. Within our sewer main
  3. At one of Council's 124 pumpstations.

Wipes are our biggest culprit when it comes to blocked pumpstations. The material used to make these wipes is actually quite strong so when hundreds meet in a pumpstation they become one very tough mass that even wears away at the steel within our pumps!

How often does this happen? Since starting with Council five years ago I’ve noticed an increase in wipes and the problems they cause. On average, we are fixing about three wet wipe blockages a week and these often happen overnight. At the end of the day, these staffing and material costs are worn by the ratepayer.

What can people put down the toilet? Our sewer system runs like a dream if we all remember the three Ps – pee, poo and paper down the toilet.