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It’s the $200 plus flush

What doesn’t dissolve can definitely clog

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It’s the $200 plus flush

Flushing items never intended to go through a wastewater treatment plant process could cost the city hundreds of dollars.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED September 25, 2013 10:53 p.m.

Flush that bathroom wipe down the toilet and it could end up costing the City of Manteca at least $200.

And if conditions are just right, it could cost you more than that to unclog your own sewer line.

“If we get a call out for service because of a back-up, it costs the city at least a couple hundred of dollars,” noted Public Works Director Mark Houghton. “If a pump is damaged, the cost (goes up substantially).

The latest culprit to create problems for Manteca and other wastewater treatment systems are bathroom wipes being touted by manufactures of bathroom tissue as an “upscale” option.

Houghton said while they are indeed flushable as the manufacturer claims what they aren’t is dissolvable. Toilet paper, by contrast, dissolves fairly rapidly

Bathroom wipes often will either float to the top or sink to the bottom of pipes. And when they reach points in the system where sewage is pumped up by a lift station to facilitate gravity flow to the wastewater treatment then real expensive problems can happen. Items that can’t dissolve or take an extremely long time to do so are fished out of ponds at the treatment plant.

Bathroom wipers are just the tip of the iceberg. Houghton said other items that are routinely flushed down the toilet in Manteca that create havoc are paper towels, baby wipes, tampons, feminine pads, household wipes, pills and even clothing.

You also run the risk of creating a very smelly situation especially on off hours when there is a delay between someone in a neighborhood noticing a back-up problem and a city worker being able to respond.

“It is a very unpleasant job to clean them out,” Houghton said of non-disposal items that get flushed down the toilet.

Anything besides human waste that is sent to the wastewater treatment plant complicates the treatment process. As such, it also increases the expense of treating the city’s wastewater. That is even true of items sent down garbage disposals.

Engineers note the treatment process ranging from the actual facility to chemicals and such are designed for human waste and dirty water. Anything else creates additional treatment challenges.

It is why the city opted in 2001 to switch to land disposal for agricultural water used to clean bell peppers at the Eckert Cold Storage facility. Even though all the water does is clean away field residue from the bell peppers it puts a strain on the treatment process as it changes the pH value of the water being treated.

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