Citizens Energy Group warns flushing wet wipes can cause clogged pipes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An unexpected consequence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing up at Indianapolis water treatment plants.

People are using wet wipes more often to keep surfaces clear of the coronavirus. Instead of tossing wipes in the trash after their use, people are throwing them down the toilet.

“They’re not flushable,” Dan Considine, a spokesman for Citizens Energy Group, told News 8 on Friday. “Yes, you can flush them, but they’re not really designed to be flushed. The whole term ‘flushable wipes’ is really a misnomer. Manufacturers may claim that they’re flushable, but they don’t break down like toilet paper does when its flushed.”

It’s been a problem for years, but Citizens Energy says it’s seen more Hoosiers flush those wipes down the toilet since the pandemic began.

“That’s a result of the fact that there’s more people at home more often, so they’re using their facilities at home more often. They’re also using disinfectant wipes,” Considine said.

Citizens Energy serves about 800,000 people in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Those wipes often wind up in tangled wads in wastewater treatment pipes and equipment.

“They wad up. They clog pumps, lift stations and various parts of the wastewater treatment plant facilities, and all of that leads to additional maintenance costs for the utility,” Considine said.

Personal wipes could also lead to expensive repairs at home, he said. “This cannot only create problems on our sewer system, it can create problems in their home and in the sewer lateral to their home. As you know, plumbers are expensive. So, you want to avoid that problem as much as you can so don’t flush them.”

Considine said it’s also important that people not pour fats, oils or grease down the drain, but instead throw them in the trash; they can cause very large clogs called fatburgs. That actually happened a few months ago, he said.

“We had a fatburg in a sewer line in downtown Indianapolis that was approximately 100 feet long in a sewer, completely blocking the sewer, where fats, oils and grease that had been dumped down the sewer system had collected over time and eventually clogged that pipe, and we had to go in with a crew and clean that pipe out, which is a very costly and difficult process. So, don’t put wipes down the toilet and don’t dump fats oils and grease down your drains.”