Flushing some items down the toilet is costing cities across the country a lot of money, including Winnebago.
“It is a few thousand dollars,” says City Administrator Judi Hynes, on the annual cost to local residents.
City engineer Matt Cole of Bolton & Menk gave City Council members a brief update on a $3.5 million wastewater treatment plant bar screen project during Wednesday night’s meeting.
“Flushable wipes keep plugging it (sewer system),” says Cole. “They are costing everybody across the nation millions of dollars. It is a nationwide problem.”
Cole says the plant’s operator has noticed that both “flushable” and “non-flushable” baby wipes are causing problems throughout the system.
Although wipes are marketed as being safe to flush, says Cole, they contain plastic that does not dissolve in water.
The wipes go through a grinder pump, he says, but the shredded-up pieces do not breakdown throughout the rest of the treatment process.
“It recongeals into a large blob that gets stuck on various mechanical pieces in the plant,” Cole says.
The debris needs to be manually removed to avoid major damage to the plant’s equipment and not interrupt the treatment process.
Other items that shouldn’t be put into the sewer system include personal hygiene products, paper towels, facial tissue, dental floss and cotton swabs. It’s also recommended that fats, oils and grease not be poured down sinks or drains.
City officials will be submitting a proposal to seek funding for the project from the state’s Public Facilities Authority.
“We don’t know yet what the city’s portion will be,” says Hynes. “It’s in the preliminary stages. The Legislature has to approve the funding.”
The multi-million project would involve replacing the current grinder pump with a mechanical bar screen with a building enclosure.
Also, an improved grit removal system would be added to eliminate gravel, sand, broken glass, metal and inorganic solids that do not breakdown in the treatment process.