Not only has the coronavirus pandemic directly affected the health of Philadelphia’s residents, but another collateral damage has also hit the city’s infrastructure. This is the case with the increased potential for clogged pipes in the water system.
An increased number of protective gear items is being flushed down the toilet causing significant damage on pumps. Nineteen of the Philadelphia Water Department’s pumping stations have been impacted by Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) waste.
Officials said the Philadelphia Water Department is reporting twelve times more clogging than normal at its processing facilities. The usual 100 a year has increased to 100 a month.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney warned this could create public health problems and the risk of water main breaks which drain the city’s water reserves.
“We are seeing a large increase in the amount of PPE and other items being discarded through people flushing these items down the toilet,” said the Mayor. “This is taking a toll on our water treatment infrastructure and residents’ private property.”
Officials said masks, gloves, and wipes should not be left on the ground, dropped into sewer inlets, or flushed down toilets, they have to be disposed of in the trash. If they are left on the Street they can go down the storm drains, creating more clogs.
Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said. “If you use wipes for your hands or anything else, please toss them in the trash and dispose of them like you would other household waste. It may seem like a small thing, but it can have a big impact at a time when we need everyone to work together.”
Additionally, he explained that despite the label, flushable wipes are not flushable.”We strongly recommend against flushing anything but toilet paper. Even wipes sold as ‘flushable’ often don’t have the science or regulations to back up that claim, so it’s a pricey gamble.
The consequences of clogged pipes can become a serious problem during the current health crisis. “These materials can create serious problems the moment you flush them. They clog pipes at homes, in the street, and at our facilities. We care about our customers and do not want people to endure the high cost and inconvenience of plumbing repairs, especially during this time.”