It's a toilet, not a trashcan!
People sometimes view the toilet as an auxiliary wastebasket - an easy place to dump all kinds of things and make them disappear with the pull of a handle or by turning on a faucet. Unfortunately, many of the items that often end up in the toilet - even products labeled "flushable" or "biodegradable" - can cause significant clogging problems not only in your home or businesses wastewater plumbing, but also for your community's sanitary sewer system and in the La Crosse Waste Water Treatment Plant.
There are only three things that can be safely flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain regardless of how easily it appears to slide down the bottom of your toilet or down the sink drain. They are:
- Human Body Waste
- Toilet Paper
- Used water
Wastewater should only contain solids that have been ground or dissolved to such a degree that all particles will be carried freely in suspension under conditions normally prevailing in public sewers. Solid particles shall be no more than one-half inch (1/2”) in any dimension.
You can do simple things to help protect your sewer lateral as well as the municipal sanitary sewer system.
Common items that are often flushed, BUT SHOULD NOT BE include:
- Wet Wipes (Baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, "flushable" wipes
- Paper towels
- Disposable diapers
- Facial tissues
- Feminine hygiene products and condoms
- Cotton swabs and band-aids
- Grease/oil (see link on page for further details on grease and oil disposal)
- Dental floss
- Cat Litter
- Cigarette butts
Often, these items do not make it past the lateral connection from your home to your local sewer system, building up and clogging the line. If these products make it to the street, they can still plug up and damage the pipes and pumps that convey sewage to the La Crosse Waste Water Treatment Plant, potentially causing overflows and basement backups that can be costly to repair. If those products make it to the treatment plant, they can also jam up equipment there.
Impact on sewer system of these unacceptable items in the sanitary sewer system:
- Clogged pumps
- Increased overflows
- Plugged plumbing and septic systems
- Labor time/cost to respond
- Failed equipment
- Injuries to staff cleaning up non-flushable items
To help protect the investment we have all made in our homes and the municipal sewer system, please dispose of all disposable wipes, personal hygiene products, and all other items listed above or that do not meet the 3 flushable items above, in the garbage and NOT the toilet.
Unacceptable Sanitary Sewer Materials
Grease and Oil Disposal
The City of La Crosse Sewer Ordinance requires that restaurants install and maintain grease traps and/or interceptors to prevent grease from entering the sewer system. Ultimately, the owner/manager of a restaurant is responsible for everything that is put down the drain in their facility. However, residents in their home should also be sure to throw used grease oil in the trash, and not put it down the drain.
Flushable Wipes Disposal
Toilet paper is made with short fibers to be strong enough for use, but to disintegrate quickly to reduce the impact on your plumbing. Of course if the toilet paper you are using is triple ply, super quilted, it will take longer to disintegrate, which means it will be more bulky and take up more room in your plumbing. Toilet paper will disintegrate before it makes it to the waste water treatment plant. Most toilet paper will disintegrate within a matter of seconds once in agitating water.
Wet wipe, or "flushable" wipes do not disintegrate quickly, and remain fully intact when arriving to the waste water treatment plant. In fact, in some tests, they barely began to break down after 35 minutes of rapid agitation.
Avoid flushing any type of wipe, "flushable" or otherwise, down the toilet. This will prevent costly clogs and environmental damaging overflows in the municipal waste water system. Make sure they are properly disposed of in the trash.
Link to article on flushable wipes: http://abc7ny.com/archive/9383310/
Pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs also should never be flushed down the toilet or thrown into the garbage. When put down the drain, drugs and pharmaceuticals can get right back into our drinking water supply, and be harmful to fish and other wildlife. Wastewater Treatment facilities are not designed to remove these contaminants from their effluent (or discharge). Drop-off sites at the local police departments are available where you can safely dispose of unused or unwanted drugs or prescriptions.
Unfortunately, some people dispose of hypodermic needles in the waste water system. The presence of these needles in the wastewater collection system presents special and possibly deadly problems for wastewater collection and wastewater treatment employees.
PLEASE DO NOT FLUSH NEEDLES OR THROW THEM IN THE GARBAGE! The proper method of disposal is to re-cap the needle and put it into a "sharps container". (This could be any rigid plastic container such as a bleach bottle.... no milk bottles, please.) When it is full, tape the container securely, and call your local pharmacy for advice on proper disposal methods.