DEM: Please stop flushing disinfectant wipes

Coronavirus

Photo of damaged sump pump. (Courtesy: R.I. DEM)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is pleading with Rhode Islanders: Stop flushing disinfectant wipes.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the agency said it’s received reports from several communities of damaged pump stations that keep getting clogged with wipes.

The DEM said all wipes, including ones advertised as “flushable,” should be thrown out. The wipes should not be flushed because they do not break down as easily as toilet paper does.

“Proper functioning of our wastewater treatment system is critical to protecting public health by preventing viruses and bacteria from getting into your homes, onto roadways and into our waterways,” DEM Director Janet Coit said. “Among the other protective measures needed at this time, Rhode Islanders need to be vigilant about what they do and don’t flush.”

The agency said in addition to clogs and wastewater collection system overflows, flushing disinfectant wipes can also lead to sewer back-ups in basements and damage to equipment at local wastewater treatment facilities.

The Water Environment Association provided a list of items that should never be flushed down the toilet:

● Baby wipes and diapers
● Rags and towels
● Cotton swabs
● Syringes
● Candy and other food wrappers
● Clothing labels
● Cleaning sponges
● Toys
● Plastic items of any kind
● Aquarium gravel or kitty litter
● Rubber items such as latex gloves
● Cigarette butts
● Sanitary napkins
● Hair
● Underwear
● Disposable toilet brushes

The DEM’s plea recently caught the attention of Professional Drain Services of Southern New England, which has been delivering toilet paper to those who need it for free.

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