Flushable Wipes Blamed for Sewer Clogs in NYC

Flushable wipes are marketed as an alternative to toilet paper, but city officials say they simply don't break down in the same way and are clogging the sewage system, potentially costing taxpayers for the extra cleanup costs.

At a city water treatment plant on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, plant manager Jim Pynn says tens of thousands of wipes get caught in the 230 million gallons of raw sewage that flows through each day.

"They wind up where they shouldn't," Pynn said. "They're not decomposing."

Manufacturers say some wipes are designed to break down more than others, and urge buyers to do research before using any wipe product.

Pynn says it costs the plant more money to weed out the wipes and haul them away. To be sure, other items also clog sewers, including regular wipes not specifically designed to break down.

But officials say the products marketed as being flushable account for the bulk of the problem.

And Vincent Sapienza, a deputy commissioner at the Department of Environmental Protection, says taxpayers end up shouldering the cleanup expense.

"We have to pass that cost to everybody that pays for water," he said.

Alexia Tate, a mom who uses the wipes for her toddler son, was surprised to learn where they end up.

"It kind of does make me want to stop using them until they find a better solution," she said. 

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