Save Yourself or Your Neighbor From a Nasty Sewer Backup.

Hello Milliken!

Here we are! A year into this pandemic and no end in sight. It has been hard on all of us. Our lives have been altered for the foreseeable future if not forever. Distancing, isolation, shortages, and Masks! But we’ll get through it.

Here in the Milliken Water/Wastewater Department, we are seeing the effects coming down the pipe (pun intended). Due to the shortages of toilet paper folks are resorting to alternatives. We are seeing an increase in flushable wipes and other miscellaneous paper products. Our treatment processes sewer system and you, the residents of Milliken, are paying the price. Literally.

We have experienced an increase in problems with the sewer and treatment facility. Sewer problems can be attributed to “debris” in the sewer that builds up and stops flow causing the homes upstream to experience sewer backups. The “debris” ranges from flushable wipes to cat litter. As this debris reaches the treatment facility, we experience increased maintenance and repairs. This happens when equipment is forced to process materials it is not designed for. These materials clog, bind up, and break equipment because they do not break down or fall apart. The backups, maintenance, and repairs can be very costly and time-consuming. Not only for the town staff but residents as well.

So, what can be flushed? Organic matter consisting of humane waste and food scraps (processed by a garbage disposal). The only non-organic material that should be flushed is toilet paper. Nothing else should be flushed. Not tissues, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, rags, toys (sorry kids), kitty litter, or “Flushable Wipes”.

Wait! Not flushable wipes? Why not? Here is why. There is no such thing as a truly flushable wipe. Oh, they will flush alright but that is where the flushable definition ends. The wastewater treatment process uses micro-organisms to breakdown and process human waste. Toilet Paper is designed in a way that the fibers separate when introduced to moisture. You have experienced this if you ever tried to wipe up a spill with toilet paper and end up with a wet pile of mush. So, we can use the mush theory to test any other paper product or other material to see if it will be a problem. Put it in a container of water and stir it around. If it does not start to dissolve within seconds it will not dissolve in the sewer or treatment facility and therefore should not be flushed. Thinking about this, moist towelettes and flushable wipes come in a sealed container to keep them damp. Already damp and they haven’t even started to dissolve. That would defeat their purpose.

So, please think before you flush. If it does not pass the mush test throw it in the trash. You are not only helping town staff to do their job more effectively, but you could be saving yourself or your neighbor from a nasty sewer backup.

Thank You For Your Help!

Don Stonebrink
Town of Milliken
Water/Wastewater Director

P.S. If you experience a water or sewer emergency please call 970-612-6321.