Epidemic of wipes and masks plagues sewers, storm drains

Jun 10, 2020

Mayor Jim Kenney kicked off a recent briefing on Philadelphia’s coronavirus response with an unusual request for residents: Be careful what you flush.

Between mid-March, when the city’s stay-at-home order was issued, and the end of April, most of the 19 sewer and storm water pumping stations in Philadelphia had experienced clogs from face masks, gloves and wipes residents had pitched into the potty, Kenney said.

“Please do not flush any of these items down the toilet,” the mayor said.

Officials in other U.S. cities and rural communities — and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — have issued similar pleas as wastewater plant operators report a surge of stopped-up pipes and damage to equipment.

The problem has sharpened the longstanding clash over whether wipes are suitable for flushing.

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