Nova Scotia

Halifax Water trying to flush 'flushable' wipes from the sewage system

The utility has started a battle against so-called flushable wipes, releasing a tongue-in-cheek video praising the wonders of toilet paper and the woes caused by flushable wipes.

So-called flushable wipes causing millions in damage to Canadian water systems

Sewage treatment experts are urging Canadians not to send personal wipes down the drain, even if they're marketed as flushable. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Halifax Water wants to flush away a growing problem that is damaging sewer pipes and costing customers thousands of dollars.

The utility has started a battle against so-called flushable wipes, releasing a tongue-in-cheek video praising the wonders of toilet paper and pointing out the woes caused by flushable wipes. 

The products, which include baby wipes and sanitary wipes, are growing in popularity, says Halifax Water spokesman James Campbell. The problem is they don't actually disintegrate in the sewage system.

"They wrap around the impellers of the pumps and clog them up," Campbell said.

"The pumps can be lifted out and removed and the flushable wipe taken out, but sometimes they can actually snap the impellers off and the pumps need to be replaced."

Fixing equipment

The result is that Halifax Water staff have to manually scoop the wipes out of the system and they've been forced to replace a lot of broken equipment. 

Campbell doesn't have an estimate of how much the damage from flushable wipes has cost Halifax Water over the years but says it's well beyond thousands of dollars. 

"In Halifax, the reality is the cost that the utility has is the cost that the customers are paying."

National problem

In 2013, the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group also took a stand against flushable wipes. It's made up of 25 Canadian communities, and estimated at the time it was a $250 million headache for sewage systems. 

The headache continues to get worse, says Campbell. 

He says they're not suggesting people stop using the products, just that they should go in the garbage instead of the toilet.

"They'll actually end up blocking your own wastewater line in your home," Campbell warned.

"Then cause backups in your house, which is really unpleasant."