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‘Flush at own risk’ campaign launched

September 17, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The city wastewater department has launched a "flush at your own risk" public campaign to warn residents and businesses to avoid flushing disposable wipes down their toilets.

According to Assistant Wastewater Department Superintendent Chuck Murphy, "The purpose of the program is to inform and educate the people in our city about the risks of using and flushing down toilets items that do not break down when flushed down the toilet. Non-disposable items clog toilets, household plumbing and city sewer lines when flushed down the toilet, which can lead to serious illness, loss of personal belongings, property damage and contamination of rivers, creeks and streams. And there can be a serious cost factor for the homeowner and the city. We are literally looking at thousands of dollars that may have to be paid by the homeowner or the city when we respond to reports of backed-up sewer lines."

"Some examples of the non-disposable items that people flush down a toilet are baby wipes, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and feminine use products. While many of these items claim to be flushable or safe for sewer and septic, they will not break down like toilet paper when flushed down a toilet. The only things that should ever be flushed down a toilet are pee, poop, puke and toilet paper. Anything else may result in the clogging of household plumbing or the city's sewer lines," Murphy explained.

Article Photos

CLOGGED PIPES — A Steubenville wastewater sewer line camera shows a lateral sewer pipe packed with non-disposable wipes. Assistant Wastewater Department Superintendent Chuck Murphy has announced a “flush at your own risk” campaign asking residents and businesses to stop putting non-disposable wipes in their toilets. - Contributed

"We have had several cases where people have flushed the so-called disposable wipes down their toilets. The wipe may disappear 1,000 times. But the next time may be the wipe that finally completes the blockage in the sewer line. In one case, the 'flushable wipes' filled nearly the entire length of the line that carries the sewage from the house to the city's sewer a little at a time over a few years," cited Murphy.

"Clearly, the 'flushable wipes' never broke down like toilet paper. This resulted in their household sewage backing up into their basement because the line was clogged with flushable wipes. Since the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of their lateral, they had to hire a plumber at their expense to have the flushable wipes cleaned out of their line. If this homeowner did not have the proper insurance coverage, they would have had to, at their own expense, clean and sanitize the basement, dispose of and replace any personal belongings damaged by the sewage and risk serious illness," said Murphy.

"Flushing non-dispersible items down the toilet costs the wastewater department thousands of dollars each year. These costs continue to rise as the numbers of non-dispersible items available for purchase continue to rise. Sewer backups caused at least in part by these items occurs several times each year resulting in thousands of dollars in overtime costs, regular manhours, equipment operating costs and disposal costs. When these items reach the wastewater treatment plant there are additional costs associated with capturing and removing these items from the water, disposal fees at the landfill and repair of pumps and other equipment damaged by these items," Murphy continued.

He said additional information regarding flushable wipes and other non-dispersing products is available by visiting the North American Clean Water Association website at

"I am not opposed to the wipes if they are disposed of properly . If you choose to use wipes, please place them in a plastic bag for disposal or directly in your trash. Please do not flush them down the toilet," urged Murphy.

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