Wet wipes a scourge of plumbers
Steve Warren is not a fan of wet wipes in his line of work.
The Titahi Bay plumber said he repaired a blockage once a week as a result of wet wipes or Handee towels being flushed down a toilet.
They either don’t make it out of the house’s system or cause a problem somewhere else down the line, he said.
There is a misconception wet wipes and Handee towels break up – they don’t.
‘‘People don’t realise what trouble wet wipes can cause,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s probably 10 per cent of my work, fixing up the problems and blockages they cause. They’re not disposable and they’re not soft.’’
Warren, a plumber for 46 years, said disposing of items down the toilet had become more of a problem in the past 20 years, as people moved to disposable nappies and wet wipes became more commonplace.
He said the blame could be laid at the feet of the ‘‘throwaway’’ society we live in.
New homes with new drains could cope much better with Handee towels and wet wipes, but older homes’ toilets couldn’t take them, he said.
‘‘What it comes down to is education – people need to be much more aware.’’
Porirua City Council figures show that since last July, there have been 206 wastewater pumping station blockages. The total cost to fix them is close to $100,000.
City councillor Tim Sheppard, chairman of the wastewater treatment plant and landfill joint committee, said wet wipes, rags, clothing and sanitary items were the worst offenders for causing blockages, known as ragging.
‘‘If a wastewater pumping station is blocked, it will overflow and the raw sewage ends up in streams and Porirua Harbour,’’ he said.
It was a cost the council and ratepayers could easily avoid, Sheppard said. ‘‘Flushing wipes is like flushing a fistful of $20 notes down the loo.’’
Ragging also blocked screens at the wastewater treatment plant in Titahi Bay, Sheppard said.
Only the three Ps should go down the toilet – pee, poo and toilet paper – no matter what it might say on a product’s packaging, he said.
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Steve Warren wants people to be aware they should not flush wet wipes down the toilet.