South Texans told to stop flushing wipes down the toilet

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Region's flat landscape make sewage system especially vulnerable

McALLEN, TEXAS (Border Report) — To flush or not to flush during the COVID-19 pandemic? Or rather, what to flush?

That is the question that some city leaders in South Texas, and many cities nationwide, are trying to get answers to as residents are chucking too many items, and not the right kind, down toilets and clogging pipes.

Due to a shortage of toilet paper caused in part by hoarding during the coronavirus pandemic, many South Texas families have only been able to purchase “flushable” wipes. But McAllen city officials say the massive quantities of those wipes are now clogging the city’s sewage system because they really don’t disintegrate as quickly as needed for the infrastructure system.

With the flat, South Texas geography, which requires sewage stations to physically lift debris, the so-called “flushable” wipes are causing mounds of weighted debris that is taxing their system and could further threaten public health if the system shuts down, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling told Border Report on Monday.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“We’re so flat we have to lift our sewage to get it to the treatment plant,” Darling said. “With the quantity of it they are currently flushing, it is clogging up the pipes because they don’t disintegrate.”

McAllen city officials issued an urgent plea over the weekend for residents not to chuck so-called “flushable” wipes down their toilets, because apparently they really aren’t as flushable as everyone thinks.

“City of McAllen Public Utility is advising residents to abstain from flushing any type of wipes down the toilet, whether flushable or not,” a city email read. “The flushing of any type of wipe has the potential to create clogs in the wastewater collection system which will lead to sanitary sewer back-up at homes or business and possible sanitary sewer overflows in the street. MPU reminds its citizens to do their part and not dispose of these products down the toilet, so that another health hazard isn’t created during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nationwide, cities are reporting flushing troubles as well, including Austin, Texas, and Spokane, Wash.

Darling said utility workers also are noticing people are also flushing paper towels, Clorox wipes and baby wipes also down the pipes, which is not allowed.

“Some of it shouldn’t be flushed. So the best thing is not to flush them. Flush the toilets but not the wipes,” Darling advised.

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