Miami-Dade County

Keep your dirty wipes out of our pristine pipes, sewer czars plead

Don’t flush this. “Flushable” wipes really are not in most cases and lead to clogged pipes and wastewater systems, counties warn.
Don’t flush this. “Flushable” wipes really are not in most cases and lead to clogged pipes and wastewater systems, counties warn. AP

The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department has 6,452 miles of sewer water pipes flowing into three wastewater treatment plants that treat about 300 million gallons of waste water every day.

The county recently tweeted out an educational video showing a worker cleaning out a nasty clump of wipes from a plant’s drain — one of 668 it was tasked with unclogging in the 2017-2018 calendar year. The city of Hollywood also is remind people to keep the wipes out of the pipes.

Doesn’t sound like a lot, per se, when you factor in all those miles. But when it happens to you, or your nearby neighbors, it can be costly. Not to mention, gross.

According to Angie’s List, the cost to unclog a toilet drain can cost up to $400. Home Advisor says the national average is $213, with a low end of $85 to a high of $525.

Think before you flush

Flushing anything other than toilet paper and human waste can result in costly repairs for you,” the county tweeted as part of its #ThinkBeforeYouFlush! campaign.

The county also released its list of “The Dirty Dozen.”

Chief among them are the “flushable wipes,” as touted on many packages. They really aren’t.

Under a heading they call “No wipes in the Pipes,” the county suggests that you try an experiment to prove their point that flushable wipes don’t belong in the john.

Sounds like a recipe:

Place toilet paper in a mixing bowl with water and mix at a low to medium speed.

Place a wet wipe in a mixing bowl with water and mix at a low to medium speed.

“Note the difference. Toilet paper immediately breaks apart. The wet wipe will likely remain intact. Wet wipes must be disposed in garbage cans,” the county said.

Beyond flushable wipes

Miami-Dade also wants you to know that most of the grease that clogs the county’s wastewater system comes from single-family, apartment and condo residents. They want you to can it.

“Be sure to get rid of fats, oils and grease the right way. After you are done cooking, pour the grease into a metal can and let it cool. Then, toss the can into a garbage bin. Don’t pour it down the sink or flush it down the toilet,” they counsel.

The other culprits include:

Sanitary items. You can probably add condoms to the no-flush list, too.

Paper towels and rags.

Q-tips and cotton balls.


Dental floss.

Medicines and vitamins.

Adhesive bandages. These don’t decompose right away and can meet others in the pipes and bond just like they do to your skin.

Cigarettes and cigar tips. The county doesn’t say this, but if you do dispose of your smokes, douse them in water first before tossing them in the trash.


Weird things in the bowl

Ragsdale, a Dallas, Georgia-based plumbing company, came up with its own Five Weirdest Things That Cause Clogged Pipes in Homes list. Adhesive bandages, dentures, animals and toys, cellphones and tea made the Top 5.

No, people aren’t disposing of their dentures or smartphones in the toilet or sinks but they commonly find their way into wastewater. Sometimes you put your dentures in a cup of water overnight and accidentally knock them over into the sink or nearby toilet.

And smartphones? You know you’ve texted while doing your business. Now add fumble fingers. Hear that splash?

Tea leaves and tea bags aren’t mentioned as often as coffee grounds for wreaking havoc in the pipes, Ragsdale said, but tea leaves swell in water and that’s not swell when you’re trying to move a lot of water through miles of pipes.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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