Don't flush 'em!
Ignore that label
by Eve Silberman
Robert Kellar, new PR guy for the Ann Arbor public services department, recently issued a list of "Commonly Flushed Items That Should Not Be." Topping the list is "Flushable Wipes."
Municipal sewer departments "have been complaining for years" about that label, he says. "They're marketed as such because there's no law that says they can't," he says, but they don't dissolve, and they can plug up both sewers and the treatment plant. Other problematic items include hair, condoms, diapers, dental floss, and cigarette butts (though they see fewer of those than in the past). Asked for the "weirdest items" that have clogged the city's pipes, Kellar mentions clothing, cutlery, roofing nails, and trash bags. But he is pleased that fewer people are flushing pills, presumably because of pharmacies' take-back programs. (Sewage treatment plants aren't designed to remove drugs, so the chemicals can end up in the Huron River.)
Because the department "doesn't separate costs out by issue," Kellar can't provide either the dollars spent or workers' hours used to rectify such problems, for instance, by opening manholes to remove the obstructions. He notes, though, that the city's utility workers do "multiple jobs," and that time spent unclogging the city's pipes would free them to concentrate on other things. "Like snow removal."
[Originally published in March, 2014.]