Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We often don’t think about problems that are associated with items that we cannot physically see. For most of us, one of those items is the sanitary sewer lines that reach across every corner of the City. These sewer lines run along almost every road throughout the City of Auburn Hills, but we rarely think about them unless something catastrophic has happened.

Many companies advertise their wipe products as being “flushable,” but those misleading labels can lead to some serious damage. Unlike toilet paper, wipes are not biodegradable and often obstruct pipes and become tangled around pumps and other sewer equipment, causing major clogs in our sewer infrastructure. Simply put, “Flushable wipes” are not flushable. This is such a large problem that even Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Detroit in an attempt to prevent disposable wipe manufacturers from labeling their products as flushable.

If you don’t think this can happen where we live, 10,000 gallons of raw sewage backed up in Beulah, Michigan about a week ago. That spill was attributed to one culprit: baby wipes. The Auburn Hills DPW sewer division crew leader, Rob Cox, and his team of dedicated employees work tirelessly to ensure our sewer lines are clear. As recently as last Friday, our sewer division employees performed routine cleaning of our sewer mains and found some that were inundated with these so-called “flushable” wipes. Although these routine cleanings have allowed our team to actively prevent serious damage related to possible clogs, we all should be more diligent about throwing away wipe products, regardless of how the packaging is labeled.

Thankfully, the City of Auburn Hills has not seen any wipe-related sewage spills, but the DPW has increasingly seen more wipes flushed into our sewer lines in recent years. Please help the Auburn Hills Department of Public Works keep our sanitary sewers clear of unwanted debris by throwing all wipe products in the garbage (regardless of what the label says). Remember, the only things that should be flushed down the toilet are human (or pet) waste and toilet paper.

Dean Lent, Department of Public Works

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