By Staff – 14 Sept ’14
Flushed wipes are increasing sewer system maintenance costs and causing sewer backups according to the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities.
“Wipes are designed to work when wet, so they don’t dissolve in sewers like toilet paper,” Says Clint Bassett of the BOPU. “Even products labeled ‘flushable’ can still cause sewer backups. Most of the wipes flushed down the toilet arrive at Cheyenne’s water reclamation facilities intact.”
The reclamation facilities, also known as wastewater treatment plants, remove waste from water so the water can be safely reused or released into Crow Creek. Each day, the BOPU removes approximately 780 pounds of trash from sewer flows and they say most of this trash is wipes.
Because of the amount of flushed wipes in Cheyenne’s sewers, BOPU crews must conduct frequent maintenance on the sewer system to prevent sewer backups. Part of this maintenance involves cleaning out lift stations. Lift stations are the pumps that remove sewage from neighborhoods. Each week, crews disassemble these pumps, remove wipes, and reassemble the pumps. This is necessary to keep the wipes from seizing the pumps.
If the pumps were to seize, Bassett says sewage would back up into homes and businesses. Because of the amount of wipes, crews have also increased sewer main cleaning efforts. This year, crews will clean over 120 miles of sewer mains.
Even with these efforts, backups still occur. During 2013, crews responded to 471 sewer backup calls. Of these, 437 occurred on the landowner’s service lines. The remaining calls, 34, occurred on City sewer mains.
The amount of flushed wipes and the number sewer backups on City sewer mains means that homes and businesses that don’t use wipes can be impacted by others that do. For this reason, the BOPU recommends that landowners check with their insurance providers to see if sewer backups are covered. If sewer backups aren’t covered, consider adding an endorsement for sewer backup damage.