'Flushable' wipes cause sewer issues in La Crosse

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LA CROSSE, Wis (WEAU) -- It's a common household item, that's causing a big problem in one Western Wisconsin community.

The City of La Crosse says wet wipes are clogging up the sewers and costing workers time and money.

It's a product meant for cleaning but it’s causing quite a mess in La Crosse, says Don Numsen owner of his own septic tank pumping service, ‘Bill’s Pumping.”

Numsen said, “Any one that's using those wet wipes, they put them down the toilet and it's plugging up their system.”

Numsen says the so called ‘disposable rags’ are more frequently clogging up systems.

“There's quite a few, probably 20-30 percent more now,” said Numsen. He added, “They think they're flushable because it says it on the package, but they don't decompose.”

La Crosse wastewater superintendent Jared Greeno says disposable wipes are also causing city sewer system issues.

Greeno said, “It can get very costly.”

He explains the city is spending money and manpower to unclog the city’s system, along with over using the plant’s equipment.

“Once they (the wipes) make it to the plant, we use this piece of equipment called a step screen,” explained Greeno. “The step screen, screens out anything that's a quarter inch or larger. So, these disposable wipes accumulate on this piece of equipment and cycles it out.”

In just one week Greeno says there a very large amount of wipes.

“It's about 6 yards of material, that's a small dump truck of stuff that should never have been in the system,” said Greeno.

Greeno says there has been such an increase in disposable wipes getting stuck in the step screen; they may have to replace some of its parts.

He says the parts for the machine are from Germany and can be $2,000-3,000, and he says that expense could be reflected on utility payer’s bills.

“If we have increased cost to do business, we'll have to pass that cost on to a user,” explained Greeno. “If you're spending more time taking care of an issue like this, it's time that could be better spent.”

Luckily, there's a simple solution to the problem.

Numsen says, “If they are going to use them, then put them in the garbage.”

“They belong in the garbage can,” Greeno added.

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