Flushable wipes causing havoc for sewer systems in Lake Charles

Flushable wipes causing havoc for sever systems in Lake Charles
Published: Aug. 21, 2014 at 9:54 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2014 at 9:55 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - What we flush matters.

The infrastructure in Lake Charles goes back 50 years in many places. Wastewater administrators said an old system was not built for many items we flush today, like flushable wipes.

These wipes are being blamed for clogging sewer systems in Lake Charles.

"When you flush them, coming to the wastewater plant, they don't degrade in a timely manner so they clog up the system," said Technical Superintendent for the City of Lake Charles Wastewater Department.

Heise said these wipes must be separated sometimes with human hands.

"The city of Lake Charles personnel have to pull this out of the various conveyance pumps in the system," said Heise. "It gets to the wastewater plant and individuals have to take it out prior to it being properly treated."

Besides the dirty work, wastewater workers said the city spends around $500,000 a year to remove items like different types of wipes and other products sent off that don't belong.

"We have to identify those pumps that are clogged and we have to go shut those pumps off, remove those pumps, take the pumps apart, and remove all of the material that is in those pumps," said Heise.

If this issue is perceived as the city's problem, plumber Ricky Campbell said it's costing residents money also.

"Nine times out of ten times that they have a sewage stoppage problem, it's because of wipes that are not really flushable," said Campbell.

He said a minimal service call can cost around $100 and that's not including if pumps need to be replaced.

"If they continue to use these wipes they could be calling a plumber out on a continuous basis when it's not needed," said Campbell.

City workers do admit Lake Charles' aging infrastructure doesn't help the growing problem, but they said replacing the system is not the best option.

"Right now the plan is to educate folks and take care of our current infrastructure, because the cost of replacing the infrastructure is astronomical so we need to take care of what we have and keep it operating the very best we can," said Heise.

Besides wipes, wastewater administrators said latex products, feminine hygiene products, and grease also create sever clogging issues at the plant.

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