Marquette Township Public Works urges residents to avoid flushing wipes

Flushing non-biodegradable items down the toilet besides toilet paper, as pictured, can have negative impacts on the sewer system. Marquette Township Public Works encourages people to avoid flushing items such as antibacterial wipes, paper towel, cloths, hygiene products, etc. (Journal photo by Jackie Jahfetson)

MARQUETTE — Flushing non-biodegradable items down the toilet can lead to blockage in the sewer system. Due to this, Marquette Township Public Works is encouraging area residents to be mindful of what goes down their drains, especially during a time where there’s been a shortage of toilet paper in local stores.

The issue of clogged drains is not a new issue, nor is it unique to the COVID-19 pandemic, MTPW Superintendent Jon Kangas said, adding that this has been reoccurring consistently throughout the years.

However, with many people worried about a potential toilet paper shortage, officials are becoming concerned about the public flushing items such as antibacterial wipes, paper towel and other items down toilets.

Manufacturers of flushable wipes claim that the wipes biodegrade rapidly, but most do not, Kangas noted. These products can cause sewer systems to plug or they can jam pumps, which in turn causes backups and failures, he said. This is because wipes don’t biodegrade as quickly as toilet paper does so they “cause blockages in gravity sewers if enough solids accumulate on them as they travel down the pipes,” Kangas said.

“From a township perspective, our biggest concern would be an overwhelming failure rate in our pumping systems,” Kangas said. “We have hundreds of grinder pumps and five lift stations in our system. Every time a pump fails, we must respond and correct the issue. This can sometimes take hours or days to repair. If we have multiple pump failures simultaneously, we will not be able to respond in a timely fashion. Not only is this a burden on our staffing, but also sewer utility finances. We would prefer to avoid any and all SSOs (sanitary sewer overflows) if possible through positive proactive education and customer response.”

Though officials have not reported any of these issues recently, the department has been urging Marquette residents to understand what they can and cannot flush down the toilet through Facebook posts on the Marquette Charter Township | U.P. page and email blasts.

Two sanitary sewer overflows have been reported but both were due to unrelated issues that revolved around grinder pumps for private residences, Kangas said.

Flushable wipes claim to be “safe” but studies have shown that this is not the case, he said. People should understand that if the wipe doesn’t degrade as rapidly as toilet paper, then it should not be flushed, he added.

“Simply put, these products do not degrade rapidly enough and will cause pumps to fail or blockages to occur in pipes. If either of these situations will occur, we will likely experience an SSO which is a threat to public health and safety,” he said.

Think before you flush, Kangas noted, adding that if someone is using items other than toilet paper, discard them in the trash after usage.

“First, if a customer doesn’t have toilet paper and needs to use other products, we strongly urge them to not flush those products,” he said. ” Those products should be placed in the trash where they belong. This exercise will go a long way toward keeping our sanitary sewer system functioning the way it was designed and intended,” he said.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.


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