Unflushables ‘flushed out’

Unflushables ‘flushed out’

Troublesome ‘unflushables’ are continuing to make their way into the sewers of the South East, with SA Water crews removing wads of wet wipes from wastewater treatment plants on a weekly basis.

During the past 12 months, local residents’ flushing habits led to a collective 62 blockages caused by fats and oils, wet wipes and other foreign objects that should not have been flushed down the toilet or put down the sink.

Mount Gambier ranked second among the state’s major regional centres for recording the most blockages, with Naracoorte and Millicent also featuring in the top 10 during 2022-23.

SA Water’s Senior Manager of Maintenance Lisa Hannant said the utility’s Millicent treatment plant consistently experiences a high volume of wet wipes, which do not break down in the sewers.

“Our operators are physically removing several kilograms of wet wipes from the plant’s primary treatment tanks each week, with no letup in sight unless people change their flushing habits,” she said.

“Unlike toilet paper, which breaks down in around 30 seconds, wet wipes contain multiple layers of woven fibre and are designed not to disintegrate, causing them to clump together and block the flow of sewage.

“This means if they do not cause blockages in our network of pipes or pump stations before even arriving at our plant, there’s a risk of damaging the plant’s infrastructure and reducing its ability to operate effectively.

“Millicent is not our only hotspot in the South East, with our treatment plants serving Mount Gambier and Naracoorte also sharing a similar experience, especially across our network of pipes and pump stations in these towns – and local residents are continuing to take a gamble every time they flush wet wipes.

“If we look at regional SA’s total of 318 sewer blockages during the past 12 months, two-thirds of these occurred at a property’s connection before even reaching our pipes – let alone our treatment plants – which increases the risk of an overflow inside your home, and trust me, nobody wants to experience this!

“Luckily, the solution is ever-so simple and all you need to remember is to only flush the three Ps – toilet paper, pee and poo – and put everything else in the bin to help protect your pipes and our sewers.”

Wet wipes remain the leading cause of blockages by unflushables across SA Water’s state-wide sewer network and were responsible for more than 1200 incidents during 2022-23, with the utility spending around $2m each year to redirect unflushables from pipes, pump stations and wastewater treatment plants to landfill.

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