Stop flushing 'flushable' wipes down the toilet, Minnesota

You don't want your city to have to invest in a "Muffin Monster."

Word from the wise: Stop flushing wipes down the toilet. It can cause major blockages that no one wants to deal with any time, much less during the novel coronavirus crisis. 

Toilet paper? Right on. But wipes of any kind – baby, disinfectant, disposable – should not be flushed down the toilet, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And those "flushable" wipes? No. Don't do it. 

"We pulled a 5 gallon pail of "disposable" wipes" out of the same pump 3 times in the last 10 days. We NEVER do that," the City of Lakeville tweeted Monday. "Wipes are NOT flushable, no matter what the pkg says. It will ruin your home pipes & it will backup the city pipes. Please don't flush them! We good? good."

The EPA says that flushing anything other than toilet paper can damage internal plumbing, and keeping pipes clear now is more important than ever before due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"Having fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks," the EPA said. 

So why does it seem that more wipes are being flushed down the toilet than usual? It could be due to the fact that so many shoppers were greeted by empty toilet paper shelves after the hoarding epidemic of mid-March at grocery stores nationwide. 

"This TP shortage may cause consumers to use alternative products such as paper towels, facial tissues, baby wipes, disposable wipes, and other similar items," said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). 

What's crazy is how much unclogging pipes jammed up by wipes can cost a city, and thus the taxpayers. The City of Avon in central Minnesota spends about $4,000 a year to clear wipes from pumps, according to the MPCA

Lewiston, in southern Minnesota, was spending $15,000 a year to clear wipe-jammed pumps until ultimately investing in a "Muffin Monster," which grinds up wipes before they reach the pumps. The Muffin Monster costs a pretty penny at $70,000. 

In St. Peter, the city has spent around $100,000 over the past five years clearing and repairing pumps damaged by wipes. 

Moral of the story: You can help keep your sewer bill lower by throwing wipes in the garbage. 

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