ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Officials in Anchorage have reported that the city’s sewer system is clogging up because people are flushing wipes and other items — a problem worsened by the pandemic as people continue to spend more time at home.
Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility spokesperson Sandy Baker said up to 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) of wipes entered the sewer system daily since the coronavirus pandemic started, Alaska’s News Source reported Saturday.
“We saw a small uptick in wipes when the pandemic started,” Baker said. “But this is a year-round problem for us.”
The wipes combine with grease, oils and fats which can block pipes if not removed and even cause sewage to back up into residential neighborhoods and homes.
Baker said the problem, in part, is that many brands of wipes claim to be flushable on their packaging, but for practical purposes are not because they “don’t break down” after flushing.
Crews have also retrieved masks, gloves, dental floss, hair, and other items from sewer pipes, Baker said.
“We had a surprising number of people doing extensive cleaning with toothbrushes and then flushing toothbrushes,” she said. “We had a lot of that showing up … and those are horrible for our system.”
It is unclear how much money has been spent cleaning out the sewage pipes in the last year.
Baker urged people to be mindful of what they flush down toilets and remember the three P’s — “pee, poo and toilet paper.”