Disposable baby wipes clogging Atlanta sewer system

ATLANTA — Disposable baby wipes and household wipes are damaging Atlanta sewer systems, according to city officials.

Channel 2’s Diana Davis saw some of the damage at one of Atlanta’s water treatment centers. Instead of throwing them in the trash, Atlanta watershed management says many people flush them down the toilet.

It’s breaking equipment, clogging sewers and in the end, increasing already expensive water bills, according to Jo Ann Macrina, commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management.

“We’re all experiencing a lot of clogging of our pipes and breaking down our pumps, blocking our screens where we can’t have the sewage instead go through treatment,” Macrina said.

Davis took a tour of one of Atlanta’s four treatment plants. She got a close up look at one of the clogged screens. She said it was jammed and clogged with wipes and other things never meant for sewers.

If the sewers clog, Macrina said that means the muck ends up in local rivers and streams and that it’s easy to spot hanging in the trees of Peachtree Creek after a heavy rain.

“You see a lot of debris, you see a lot of trash rags, wipes and everything else,” Macrina said.

She says getting people to change behaviors and start throwing wipes in the trash where they belong may take some time.

She hopes people will quickly change their habits when they learn the problems it can cause and the money it’s costing.

Macrina said wipes do not break down and that the only thing that should be flushed down the toilet is toilet paper.

“Just because the container may say flushable, it can be flushed, but it’s not bio-degradable,” Macrina said.

She says it’s not only does stuff like baby wipes that clog the system and breaks it, but with greasy holiday meals, grease can clog and break down the system as well.