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The Trouble With Wipes In Your Pipes

It's a dirty duty, and rubber glove wearing Canute Dawson has it:  removing all the debri that clogs the sewer pipes at one of Miami-Dade's regional pump stations.

It seems like almost every day, at least one of the four giant propellers in South Dade gets jammed with all kinds of junk that people have flushed down the toilet. There's rope, grease, papers, razor blades and yes.... those flushable wipes that are so popular. We saw first had how those wipes are piling up in pump stations across South Florida and potentially jamming up homeowners pipes.

Jennifer Messemer is spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Water & Dewer Department. "It can actually have a reversal flow and cause sewer back up to come back into the community and into the houses."

If wipes are convenient, they could also be expensive if you have to hire a plumber to unclog a nasty sewage backup in your house.

Danielle Adkins is a new mom who found out the hard way that her baby wipes clogged her pipes.

"It backs up your whole system and it costs a lot of money to drain out your pipes. It's ridiculous," said Adkins.

In Miami-Dade, workers showed us what they see every day as they attempt to run interference on potential backups by putting a camera down the county's sewer pipes.

"When you flush them down they get stuck right here in the joint," the worker told CBS4. "Right there in the joint and eventually three  or four or five of them plug up the water from going through."

Sewer officials in both Miami-Dade and Broward told CBS4... the wipes certainly "flush" as advertised... but that's not their problem with the product.

"It gets to the point where it doesn't dissolve or it doesn't dissolve enough and you know it just backs up and backs up," said Messemer.

To find out how important a quickly dissolving product is... CBS4 asked the only independent testing facility in the county to conduct a slosh test. I-P-S testing in Wisconsin put toilet paper, flushable wipes, and non-flushable wipes through the wringer in their slosh box lab. This time lapse video shows what happens to all three products.

In the beginning, all three are visisble.

After one  hour, the toilet tissue is barely visible, but the flushable and non-flushable wipes are still very intact.

After two hours in the slosh box, the toilet tissue is completely dissolved, while the flushable wipes have shredded some, but visible chunks still remain and the non-flushable wipes show barely any change.

After three  hours, each box is decanted and rinsed. Nothing is left of the toilet paper, there is a trace amount left by the flushable wipes, while the non-flushable wipes are still pretty intact.

"You're one family and think about how many wipes you might flush down that toilet and then what happens?" asked Messemer. "Compound that by every other person in Miami-Dade County."

Even Consumer Reports couldn't get flushable wipes to dissolve in their lab after ten minutes in a smililar slosh test. The wipes didn't even dissolve after ten minutes in a mixer!

So if your wipes haven't dissolved by the time they get to a sewage pump, there is going to be a mound of white trouble for workers like Canute Dawson to dig out.

Irene Dubois from Canada agreed. "Because that's what I understand... it's not good for the systems and I don't flush them."

So did Jennifer Nieset from Plantation. "My husband's in construction and he says toilet paper and that's it you know!"

"We just ask you to take that extra step and just throw it away in the garbage," explained Messemer.

So for the sake of your pipes, the best thing to do is not flush any wipes... just toilet paper. Everything else should go in the the trash can.

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