No Wipes in the Pipes! Help Spread the Word

The River Authority
Nov 17, 2020

Did you know the United Nations will celebrate World Toilet Day on November 19 to help raise awareness of the 4.2 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation? As part of our commitment to safe, clean, enjoyable creeks and rivers, the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) is a full-service wastewater utility provider. We have been in the wastewater treatment business in Bexar County since 1966 and, over the years, have grown to help provide utilities assistance to communities throughout Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.

Our Utilities staff also takes part in education outreach to better inform our constituents of the services we provide and the challenges of operating and maintaining wastewater collection systems and treatment plants. In honor of World Toilet Day, we’d like to bring awareness to prevent these from being flushed down the toilet. Read along as we share more and find out what you can do to help!

Why can’t we flush wipes down the toilet?

Baby wipes and personal hygiene wipes are often marketed as “flushable” and, while in a sense these companies are correct their products will flush, what they don’t tell you is that it is not safe to do so. These “flushable wipes” do not break down in water like toilet paper. This makes them more likely to get stuck in your home sewer pipes and accumulate until water and waste can no longer pass through. Such backups can cause raw sewage to flow back into your home. In the case they do make it through your pipes they cause havoc on your local wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Still skeptical? Check out this video by our Education and Engagement team that demonstrates the difference between toilet paper and a “flushable” wipe in water.

What’s the damage that wipes can cause to our sewage system?

In the River Authority WWTP, raw sewage passes through screens designed to catch debris such as branches and trash, but wipes are becoming an increasing problem.  Wipes also block the WWTP pumps and cause them not to function properly. Clogged pipes, pumps, or screens can cause sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) in our homes, streets, and environment resulting in contamination to personal property and neighborhoods as well as area creeks and rivers.

 What can I do to help?

River Authority promotional piece to raise awareness that wipes clogs pipes.

Never flush wipes down the toilet! Instead, place a small trash can next to your commode to make it easy to dispose of wipes, feminine hygiene products, or other materials. Keep wipes for your guests to use? Use a sharpie to cross out the “flushable” claim on the packaging and ask your guests to use the trash instead.

Other items to make sure to trash and not flush are disinfecting wipes, facial tissues, disposable wipes, make-up wipes, rags, wet wipes, cloth towels, and paper towels.