Water Utility Reminds: Don't Flush Sanitizing, 'Flushable' Wipes Down the Toilet

NOTE: The Cape May County Herald is offering full coverage of the COVID-19 / coronavirus emergency to all, with no payment required. We are committed to ensuring our readers can make critical decisions for themselves and their families during this ongoing situation. To continue supporting this vital reporting, please consider a digital subscription. For more coverage, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

CAMDEN - With hand hygiene at the top of everyone’s minds and toilet paper in high demand, many households are increasing their use of sanitizing wipes and “flushable” wipes. 


According to a release, New Jersey American Water is telling customers not to flush these wipes down the toilet. Flushing wipes, paper towels, or other paper products not intended for use in wastewater systems, down the toilet can lead to sewer backups and in-home plumbing issues which may be expensive to repair.


Even wipes labeled as “flushable” or “biodegradable” can cause backups for sewer utilities and headaches for homeowners.


“Many sewer blockages occur between your house and our sewer main in the street, where the property owner is responsible for correcting and paying for the repair,” stated Manoj Patel, senior manager of Production for New Jersey American Water’s Statewide Sewer. “During this already stressful time, we want to help our customers avoid blockages that could create costly plumbing emergencies.”


Patel added that improper disposal can also cause problems in the local sewer collection system and treatment plants. “Your dedicated local wastewater system employees continue to come to work every day and make sure your community’s sewage is being properly treated,” he continued. “We provide an essential service, so please help us out by putting wipes, paper towels and other products in the trash where they belong, not in your sewer system where they can damage our equipment and cause blockages. Wet wipes combined with fat, grease and other solids deposited in the sewer main creates a huge clog, a condition known as a 'fatberg.' Fatbergs are very difficult to remove and cause damage to the pipes requiring costly repairs.”


In addition to wipes, New Jersey American Water also warns against pouring grease, fat or oil down the drain. When washed down the drain, grease and oil can adhere to the insides of the pipes that carry the wastewater from homes and businesses to the sewer treatment facility. Over time, this buildup of grease can restrict the flow of wastewater, leading to blockages that can cause sewage overflows or backups in homes and businesses. It can also have an adverse effect on the environment if the overflow enters local rivers, lakes and streams.

New Jersey American Water encourages adults and kids alike to watch this “12 Things That Should Never Go Down Your Drain” 30-second video and print and post this poster in areas near sinks and toilets.


Additional tips for homeowners include:

  • Allow grease to cool and use a rubber scraper to remove the fat, oil and grease from cookware, plates, utensils and cooking surfaces. Then place the grease in a sealed container and dispose of it in the trash.
  • Install baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and empty them into the trash.
  • Keep in mind, garbage disposals do not prevent grease from washing down the drain. Also, detergents that claim to dissolve grease may pass it down the line and cause problems in other parts of the wastewater system.


More information and tips can be found on the New Jersey American Water website.