'Please do not flush them;' Flushable wipes are not so flushable

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Flushable wipes are really popular – but are they causing an even bigger mess?

Concerns have gotten so bad in parts of Michiana folks are actually trying to get them banned. Why is this happening? That question has even sparked a few national lawsuits.

To put it simply, so-called “flushable” wipes aren’t so flushable. They’re just not degrading. So they’re clogging pipes in homes and causing issues for towns, cities and even entire counties.

The guys who work to solve those problems are fed up. They’re calling it a nightmare. One that’s costing taxpayers money.

Matt Huffman has owned Huffman Plumbing for 30 years. He’s completed hundreds of jobs removing flushable wipes in LaGrange, Elkhart, Noble and Steuben counties.

“They are flushable in the sense that you put one in a stool and flush, they’ll go right on down,” Huffman said. “But, is it a good ethical thing to put in them? No.”

So, why aren’t they flushable?

“They do not break down like toilet paper does,” Huffman said. “They will get lodged in there and they are really tough they are like rope. Whether it’s in your own home, or if it gets into a municipal system where it gets into their grinder pumps or their vacuum pumps. It can clog the inlets.”

That’s exactly what happened in the town of Wolcottville in early March. The whole sewer system on the south side of Whitmer Lake had to be shut down for about an hour. All because a couple of flushable wipes were trapped in a tube.

According to Mark Schultz, the water quality control super in the city of Kendallville, wipes are impacting his treatment plant, too.

“They need to come up with another method of disposal because flushing them so far has not been a good idea,” Schultz said.

He said they’re even causing issues before they can make it to the water treatment plant.

“I think again people just have to educate themselves on what they’re buying,” Schultz said. “I know some communities have even outlawed them.”

Here’s where the story brings us to the town of Avilla in Noble County.

In an effort to reduce costs to Avilla families, flushable wipes have actually been outlawed. 

Brian Carrol works daily to keep monster clogs like one that’s been nicknamed “Cousin It” from happening again in Avilla.

“There is a statement in there that says you’re not supposed to flush anything that will plug up the lines or cause backups or any kind of debris like that.”

They can technically fine homeowners and businesses $200 if they can pin point where the wipes are coming from.

Like Wolcottville, and Kendallville, they’re shelling out thousands of dollars to replace equipment.

“4,000 to $10,000 is what I pay for a pump,” Carrol said. “It can add up after a while.”

That cost trickles back down to get money from taxpayers. That’s why experts are urging homeowners to just stop flushing them.

Of course, they can still be used but they advise throwing them in trash. That simple action will save cities and towns thousands of dollars.

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