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'Flushable' Wipes Causing Backups In Sacramento's Sewer System

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — An effort to keep clean in the bathroom is causing problems down the drain. So-called "flushable" wipes are backing up Sacramento's sewer system. It's a problem Sacramento area sewer district workers are seeing more often

Crews used to clean underground pumping stations once a month, but now they do it every one to two weeks. In Elk Grove, the pumping station was cleaned just six days ago and a mass of wipes is already accumulating.

"I see a lot of rags that have started to bind together and just create a giant clog," said Rosemary Clark with the Sacramento Area Sewer District.

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The bathroom hygiene products are marketed as flushable, but wastewater officials say that's misleading.

"They can actually rag up inside and actually get stuck in there so that it can't move and pull that sewage up," Rosemary said.

Rosemary said the difference between toilet paper and flushable wipes is toilet paper breaks down, while the wipes remain intact through sewer systems.

"Just because it can be flushed doesn't mean it should be flushed," Rosemary said. "It is causing quite a big maintenance issue, and that costs money."

The concern is a clog so bad that raw sewage begins to back up in a home or on the streets.

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"If it stops anywhere in those pipes it can cause a sewer overflow," Rosemary said. "Our mission is to help protect the public and the environment. We don't want any sewer overflows."

District officials hope a little education will help wash away this growing problem.

"No wipes in the pipes. Only human waste and toilet paper should be flushed," Rosemary said.

In addition to warning about the wipes, sewer officials are thinking ahead to the holiday season and remind residents to throw grease and fat in the trash instead of pouring it down the drain.

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