Consumer Reports notes that companies currently advertise their wipes with terms like "safe for sewers and septic," or promise that the product will "break up like toilet paper." But this is simply not the case. No matter what the packaging says, just because it CAN be flushed doesn't mean it SHOULD be flushed.
City sewer systems around the United States are reporting expensive repair and maintenance issues resulting from flushed wipes, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
We're hooked on the convenience of these pre-moistened squares that are boldly labeled “flushable”. A lot of them end up down the toilet, and they flush just fine -- but the cloth-like products don't disintegrate the way toilet paper does. That's where it starts to cost local utilities and you money.
You flush the toilet or let water run down the drain, and it is instantly drained away by your home's mysterious sewer system.
If you have never had a major sewage backup, you may not know a lot about the network of pipes leading from your drains all of the way to the public sewer system. But knowledge is power, and the more you know about sewers and your home's sewer pipes, the better prepared you'll be to deal with any future sewer struggles.
Sewers are often thought of as a modern innovation, but in fact, they have a long history. One of the first-known sewers was built around the year 600 BC in Rome. It was known as the Cloaca Maxima.
London began building drainage systems around 1200 AD, and the city of Boston, MA had a primitive drainage system in the early 1700s. However, the first full public sewer systems in the U.S. were built in Chicago and New York City in the 1850s. The Schwenksville Borough Authority
(SBA) Sewer System was built in 1963
One of the primary differences between today's public sewer systems and the public sewers prior to the 1800s is how the systems handle waste. Early systems would often empty untreated waste into a nearby body of water. Today, however, sewer departments use advanced measures to treat and sanitize the waste, protecting the public from bacterial and viral diseases.
The sewage treatment process begins when solids are removed from the mixture. These solids are moved to specialized tanks where they are broken down by bacteria and later used to make fertilizer or fuel. The liquids are treated to remove contaminants. Then, the clean water is returned to the public water supply.
Problems with your lateral sewer line can be costly to repair, and if this line becomes clogged, every drain in your home may slow down or back up. Here are a few ways you can minimize trouble with your main sewer line:
Tree roots are the major concern in your home's main sewer line, but in the public components of the sewer system, you have to consider another big threat: fatbergs. As the name suggests, fatbergs are huge formations of congealed fat. They clog sewers and are tough for workers to remove. Cities like Baltimore, London, and Denver have all had trouble with fatbergs in recent years. Luckily, you can do your part to prevent fatbergs by never putting grease down the drain. Do not put fat or greasy items down your garbage disposal, either.
"First, someone might pour molten turkey fat down a drain. A few blocks away, someone else might flush a wet wipe down a toilet. When the two meet in a dank sewer pipe, a baby fatberg is born."
By Erika Engelhaupt National Geographic August 16,2017
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