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Flushed 'wipes' causing increase in clogged sewers during coronavirus outbreak

Many western Washington residents are flushing wipes, paper towels, and napkins doing their toilets.

SEATTLE — Local utility companies say their pumps and pipes are quickly being clogged by personal wipes, paper towels, and even napkins.

“It's most troublesome is in the collection systems ... they tend to find each other and cause clogs and rags or wads if you will, blocking sewer lines, side sewers, and then, ultimately, pumps,” said John Lande, water and sewer manager for the City of Monroe.

This is not a new problem for sewer facilities across the country, Lande said. However, with people using (and flushing) sanitizing wipes while also cooped up in their homes, sewage workers are already seeing an increase in clogs.

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Most utility companies say an increase in clogs could cost homeowners.

“Very often these fouling rags and clogs don't make it to our main and many homeowners have to get a plumber to come out and get their line free of clogs that, unfortunately, were caused by, you know, putting wipes down the toilet,” Lande said.

There is also a risk to the environment. 

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Last summer, the beach at Golden Gardens Park closed when fecal matter made its way into the water due to backed up sewer lines.

Governor Jay Inslee recently signed a bill which requires packaging for wipes to clearly display "do not flush" on the labeling. It is the first state bill of this nature to be passed in the country. It goes into effect in 2022.

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