Flushable wipe woes prompt warning

Jon Solmundson, David Salvaire and Shane WrightGeraldton Guardian
Toilet paper is okay, but so called “flushable wipes” cripple Geraldton’s sewage systems.
Camera IconToilet paper is okay, but so called “flushable wipes” cripple Geraldton’s sewage systems. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Water Corporation has warned Geraldton and other Mid West towns that sewerage equipment is being clogged with so-called “flushable” wipes.

According to Water Corporation Mid West regional manager Steve Greeve, more than eight million litres of wastewater is collected each day across the Mid West, through 589km of mains.

He said there had been a spike in blockages, with Mid West waste management crews clearing the wipes from 70 wastewater pump stations and 19 wastewater treatment plants in the region.

“If you mix these with fat, they sort of congeal together and you end up with blockages,” he said.

“That then results in overflows of sewage into peoples houses, or backyards, or streets.

“The first sign of that is the overflow — we’ve got no other warning that something is wrong in the suburb. We’ll attend to that within two hours. It’s a drop-everything-and-go type situation, and while it’s not necessarily hard to fix, it makes a hell of a mess.

“No one likes sewage overflow anywhere, let alone inside your house.”

Mr Greeve’s statements come as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launch legal action against two companies behind some of the best-known toilet products in the country.

The competition watchdog is taking on Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kleenex Flushable Cleansing Cloths, and Pental, maker of White King Power Clean Flushable Toilet Wipes, alleging both firms knew their products were not like toilet paper.

Shoppers were told the wipes would disintegrate like toilet paper after being flushed down the toilet, with Pental claiming its product had been “made from a specially designed material”.

But court documents lodged by the ACCC claim that both companies had carried out their own tests on the products and found instead of breaking up like paper, they caused a stink for the nation’s sewerage workers.

A Kimberly-Clark spokesman denied the ACCC’s allegations.

“Kimberly-Clark stands by the claims we made about the flushability of our Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths, which were supplied up until May, 2016,” he said.

Mr Greeve said Mid West residents should avoid flushing items such as wet wipes, sanitary products or nappies down the toilet even if the packaging claimed they were flushable.

“At this time of year, we are also reminding households not to pour fat, oil and grease from Christmas lunch or dinner down the sink,” he said.

“Pour fat from your Christmas ham and grease from the barbecue into a container and dispose of it in the bin. Also, don’t dispose of food scraps down the sink.”

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