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So-Called "Flushable" Wipes Causing Pipe, Sewer Problems

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - With each and every flush, some North Texans are doing something that could cost them and their respective cities a lot of money. We're talking about those so-called "flushable" wipes.

At one time or another you've probably used a moistened wipe -- maybe it was for your baby or to take off make-up. But as the wipes get more and more popular they're wreaking havoc with plumbing systems.

North Texas mother Tiffany Sanchez admitted that she uses a lot of the wipes. "Every diaper change.  If he [son] is sticky or dirty."

Sanchez also said she uses the wipes religiously for herself. "Sometimes the toilet paper doesn't do the job."

Sanchez isn't alone and the increased use of the wipes is causing problems. Ben Bravo, with Bravo's Plumbing explained it in a unique way. "Think of it like paper towels on steroids!"

Despite what manufacturers claim, the wipes -- even the ones that say flushable -- do not dissolve. Plumbers say they can get tangled in pipes and completely clog them.

"It's [the wipe] really strong and durable and when you flush it, it won't dissolve 100-percent,"Bravo explained. "Over time all that knitting will accumulate in the sewer."

The wipes are not biodegradable so they don't break down in sewage systems. In east Fort Worth, the wipes that manage to get through end up at the wastewater treatment plant. The plant is where water is cleaned and recycled.

Speaking about the individual wipes Mary Gugliuzza, with the Fort Worth Water Department, said, "It can sometimes cause problems if it gets caught up in pumps, at lift stations, or here at the treatment plant."

If the wipes make it to the plant the city then has to separate and discard them, sending big dumpsters to area landfills. The extra work costs city residents extra money.

"People could easily dispose of those things in their own trash instead of sending it to us and us paying for it," Gugliuzza said.

While the clogs, tie-ups, and extra processing is costing the city and residents, the end result is the exact opposite for plumbers. "Money for me  -- gold," Bravo said smiling.

City officials say the flushing of moist wipes does impact water bills, but the cost is not that significant.

For the city however -- it does cost thousands of dollars to send the wipes to landfills.

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