A massive glob of “flushable” baby wipes clogged portions of the Charleston, S.C., sewer system, forcing divers to swim through nearly 30 metres of raw sewage to clear the obstruction.
Officials with Charleston Water said divers had to be sent down in complete darkness and search with their hands to find and clear the obstruction.
“As we expected, they came up with these large masses of wipes in their first two loads, with more to come,” Charleston Water tweeted, along with photos of a massive heap of toilet wipes. “They also found a baseball and a big piece of metal. Don’t flush stuff like this. Joking of course, but you should only flush #1, #2, and toilet paper.”
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Speaking with the Charleston Post and Courier, a water official said other items including feminine hygiene products, string, hair, makeup pads and kitchen grease add to the clogging problem.
“But the wipes are a huge portion of the material we pull out,” Andy Fairey, the Charleston Water System chief operating officer, told the newspaper.
It took crews three days to get the Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant back at 100 per cent operational capacity due to the clogging.
“It boils down to the fact that ‘flushable’ wipes simply are not flushable. They may degrade over time and they may go down your toilet, but they certainly will block up the plumbing in your home, and wreak a lot of havoc in our system, so we would really appreciate any change that people could make,” a Charleston Water spokesperson told WCIV News.
As the Post and Courier reports, the U.S. wipes industry is expected to sell $2.7 billion in products by 2020, up from $796 million in 2010.