Local News

October 28, 2013

Wipes standards on the way


When it happens, he said, “it generates a lot of work” making repairs.

”In the past, we’ve had a few facilities that have had issues with flushable wipes or surgical gloves,” Welch noted. “It’s usually rectified rather quickly.”

And his department traces the culprit materials back to the source, letting that customer know that such items should not be flushed.

The city has mechanical bar screens at the filtration plant that work well, Welch said.

“They gather anything that might be an issue.”


The Village of Saranac Lake also relies on that technology, Chief Water and Sewer Superintendent Kevin Pratt said.

It has rails 3/8 of an inch apart, so not much gets through.

“Sensors tell when it’s plugged up,” he said. 

An automatic rake goes to work then, scraping the accumulation into a hopper.

“Then it’s compressed and put into a trailer.”

Saranac Lake has three lift stations, none of which have screens.

Even so, wipes haven’t proved a problem, Pratt said.


His village is among the fortunate ones.

A story this week in the Washington Post said the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission shelled out $1 million-plus on equipment to shred the wipes.

In Bemus Point, N.Y. a few months ago, the Post said, the situation escalated so much that the sewer department installed basket strainers in sections of pipe that led to a pump that had frequently seized up.

Then they sent letters and even visited those residents, begging them to seize flushing the cleansing cloths.


Cottonelle Fresh Flushable Wipes claim, on the package, to “break up like toilet paper.” Charmin Freshmates are touted as “Septic Safe.” And Scott Flushable Wipes are, the maker says, “Safe for sewer and septic.”

Consumer Reports recently put those three products to a disintegration test, swirling each in a kind of grinder that, first, makes short work of toilet paper — in about 8 seconds.

The wipes, however, remained intact after 30 minutes, when the tester gave up.

Manufacturers insist wipes labeled flushable aren’t the problem, pointing instead to items like paper towels, feminine hygiene products and baby wipes clearly marked as non-flushable.

Champlain’s mayor had something to say about that.

“That’s a bit of false advertising,” Martin said.

Email Suzanne Moore

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