December 22, 2013

Problem down the drain

CHAZY — Problems here were wiped away once wastewater customers were made aware they were flushing cleansing cloths that caused expensive damage to pumps.

“It was an amazing thing,” Chazy Superintendent of Water and Wastewater Systems David Siskavich said. “People actually heeded the warning.”

While called “flushable” by manufacturers, the wipes used to supplement toilet paper are anything but, he said.

Just one can jam in a pump in any of the town’s dozen lift stations, causing it to overheat and short out the electric starter or other component in the control panel or damage the working parts.

To rebuild one pump costs at least $1,200, Siskavich said.

In-house repair generally requires about $1,000 in parts, and a new unit is priced between $3,000 and $4,000.

That doesn’t count the overtime the town pays when a pump goes down after hours or on weekends, he said.


A few years ago, the town had posted fliers on the doors of wastewater customers’ homes, to no avail.

In fact, Siskavich said, wipe flushing had increased 100 percent since then.

A small notice in the newspaper last spring brought no relief, and so in October, he stepped up the approach through an interview with the Press-Republican, explaining in detail the pricey damage just one wipe can cause.

“We haven’t had one call out to our pump stations since the article ran,” he marveled.

And they have only found a few wipes caught by screens in the system, he said.

One resident actually stopped by the Town Hall, Siskavich said, to say he hadn’t realized how much damage is caused by flushing the wipes. And he said would not do so anymore.


Chazy’s wastewater system, which serves about 197 users, is one of many around the globe that has had issues with cleansing cloths. Recently, the Village of Champlain issued letters to its sewer customers, asking them to stop flushing the wipes.

The cloths contribute also to clogging pipes, Mayor Greg Martin said.

In Chazy, the sewer district’s 2014 budget includes $12,000 more than this year specifically to address damage done by wipes.

But the public’s response to his recent plea, Siskavich said, “has already saved us money. We have not had to replace anything on the pumps due to premature wearout.

“We’re very pleased.”

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