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‘Unusual number’ of wet wipes clog Brownsburg sewage-treatment system

Another sewage warning issued in Brownsburg

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — Brownsburg is issuing a warning: Sewage could back up into homes if people continue to flush things down the toilet that don’t belong there.

The warning comes after an “unusual number” of wet wipes came through the sewage-treatment system this week.

Wet wipes belong in the trash can, not in the sewer system. Brownsburg had flooding issues because of wet wipes last summer and were hoping people had learned their lesson.

When a large chunk of wet wipes came through the system this week, they thought people could use a bit of a reminder.

Two weeks worth of compacted wipes raked from the Brownsburg sewer system is not a pretty sight. Brownsburg has a dumpster full of wipes that came through the system, but that doesn’t include what’s still caught in the town’s pipes.

“If we continue to have different types of materials dumped into our sewer systems that shouldn’t go in there, we’re going to continue to see the possibility of sewer backups in different areas,” Wastewater Superintendent Kathy Dillon said.

Brownsburg staff said even if the label says flushable or biodegradable, realistically they’re not. The wipes can recombine or won’t biodegrade fast enough in the sewer system.

“The manufacturers can sell them that way because nobody wants to use one and then throw it in their trash and have to deal with it,” said plant manager Shane Russell. “It’s a lot easier to flush it then let us deal with it, but, yeah, when we see that coming we’re just ready for trouble.”

Brownsburg said removing wipes and repairing the damage probably costs around $20,000 a year, taking money the city said could be going to other projects, but they need to budget for wet wipes because they know they’re coming.

“We deal with that pretty much every day unfortunately,” Russell said. “It takes … over time, it will clog up our pumps. So every couple of weeks, we’ve got to do something whether it be backflushing a pump or tear it apart and clean it out.”

Brownsburg said the best it can do is upgrade its equipment and appeal to companies to remove “flushable” and “biodegradable” from labels.

“Basically, we need to change our habits and put some of those materials into the trash can to begin with,” Dillon said. “That eliminates future costs that may not really be necessary.”

If you’re wondering what goes down the toilet, just remember the three P’s. The third one is paper, and I’ll let you take a guess at what No. 1 and No. 2 are.

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