Town officials urge residents not to flush wipes

Mar 23, 2020

The Dartmouth Department of Public Works is urging residents to stop disposing disinfecting wipes into toilets after a surge in flushed wipes has caused problems at 22 sewer pump stations.

Although DPW Director David Hickox expressed satisfaction that residents are following official recommendations to sanitize surfaces in their homes, he said that wipes flushed down toilets can get stuck in the town’s sewer system.

In a recent public notice, the DPW cited the increased use of wipes as causing problems at its 22 sewer pump stations. 

According to Hickox, the wipes are not designed to break apart in the same way toilet paper and human waste does when exposed to water. Instead, they remain intact, which can lead to blockage if there is a large number of them.

“The pumps were never designed to handle these kinds of things,” Hickox said. “Once one [wipe] gets caught in a pump, it slows down, then suddenly another gets stuck and next thing you know you’re not able to pass any more wipes.”

If the pumps are not able to function, it could lead to a stoppage of flushing in home toilets and stretch out an already reduced sanitation staff to make repairs. Even worse, it could result in waste overflows at home.

“We just want the system to operate as designed,” Hickox said.

Of course, residents can still use disinfectant wipes, he added, as long as they dispose of them in the normal trash.