Officials: Flushable wipes clog pipes

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor , Christopher Yazbec

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City officials in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach agree there is little truth in the advertisements for flushable wipes.

While companies like Cottonelle and Charmin tell consumers their wipes can, in fact, go down the drain, local utility companies say otherwise.

When most people hear flushable wipe, they assume the wipes will break apart once inside the toilet. But that's where most would be wrong. And officials say it takes a lot of time and money to fix it.

"Really the only thing you should be flushing down the toilet that is inorganic is toilet paper," JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said. "Anything else has a possibility of causing clogs."

Boyce said it's becoming a messy problem. People flushing the wipes down their toilets are in turn having to call a plummer because they end up clogging the pipes.

JEA takes care of more than 3,000 miles of sewage pipes. It says when there's damage, it's reflected in JEA's rates. So even if it doesn't affect your home, flushing wipes down the toilet may still affect you in the long run.

The city of Jacksonville Beach said clogged pipes due to flushable wipes (pictured below) take hours to unclog the pumps and is very expensive. They said the wipes can cost the consumer twice -- once for the home with a plumber and next in taxes.

The city said it's gone from cleaning its main pipe from once a year to once or twice a week because of these wipes.

"If you have any stoppages in your house, that means the sewage has nowhere to go, so it's going to come up either in your toilet, in your sinks, in your showers," Boyce said.

Consumer Reports checked out flushable wipes. The products all say they're flushable and make claims like "sewer and septic safe" and "breaks up after flushing."

But after spending $5 getting wipes, at the end if you flush those into the toilet, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars for plumbing services.

"Anything that damages your pipes, it's going to be reflected in your rates," Boyce said. "You also want to protect the environment. You don't want the sewage in your neighborhood or community."

While no one wants to deal with sewage in their home, the sewage problem could also end up in the streets.

"Think about our system, like your veins and arteries; if you have too much grease, it constricts them, and that's what happens to the sewage system," Boyce said.

So if you use flushable wipes, do not throw them in the commode. Instead, throw them in the trash.

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