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Baby Wipes Clogging Sewer Systems In Smaller MN Towns

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Cleaning wipes for babies are becoming increasingly popular, and some are even labeled "flushable."

But for a number of small communities in Minnesota, so many wipes are getting flushed that they are clogging up local sewer systems.

In the tiny town of Avon, Utilities Superintendent Jon Forsell checks the sewer pumps every day. The reading on this day is good. Many times, Forsell has had to open up the sewer cover, bring in a crane and pull away wipes that are clogging pumps. Forsell said the wipes are difficult to extract.

"When these are wet and wound around something they are incredibly strong. You cannot tear them with your hands," Forsell said.

A representative for Kimberly Clark said it manufactures both flushable and non-flushable wipes, and that their flushable wipes are safe to flush.

But Bob Brand, the director of external communications for Kimberly Clark, went onto say consumers need to read labels of the wipes they buy to see if they really can be flushed down the toilet.

The City of Avon has sent out a flyer to all residents telling them not to flush any of their wipes. Officials said replacing one of their sewage pumps costs $16,000. The city administrator said especially for small communities, the stakes are high.

"If you have ongoing unexpected expenses, it blows the budget for a small community," Jim Thares said.

Forsell's advice is simple.

"The only product that should be going down the toilet is toilet paper," he said.

The City of Avon said if left unchecked, the wipe problem could get so bad it could shut down their entire sewer system.

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