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EPA: Flush only toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes; they're clogging the wastewater system

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging Americans to only flush toilet paper, not disinfecting wipes or other non-flushable items that should be disposed of in the trash.

Flushing only toilet paper helps ensure that the toilets, plumbing, sewer systems and septic systems will continue working properly to safely manage wastewater, the EPA said in a press release.

This mirrors what Suez, Middletown’s public water and sewer provider, said last week. The wipes are clogging sewer systems and blockages caused by the wipes cause utility workers to remove them in confined places. Many times this must be done by hand, which is dangerous and costly, Suez said.

The EPA encourages disinfecting to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but “preventable toilet and sewer backups can pose a threat to human health and present an extra challenge to our water utilities and their workforce. Flushing anything other than toilet paper, including disinfecting wipes, can damage internal plumbing, local sewer systems and septic systems,” the EPA said.

Fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly.

“EPA thanks wastewater utilities and their workforce for their courageous efforts at a time when resources may be stretched thin,” the EPA said in a press release. “Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks. Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.”