DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN HERE: A Sunshine Coast fatberg – a congealed lump of fat, sanitary items and wet wipes that have been flushed down the toilet.
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN HERE: A Sunshine Coast fatberg – a congealed lump of fat, sanitary items and wet wipes that have been flushed down the toilet. ROXANNE MCCARTY-OKANE

Wet wipes a plumber's nightmare

EVERY wet wipe flushed down a Gympie toilets increases the risk of blockages and creation of the dreaded "fatberg".

Those wipes are very popular in modern familiy life and may leave you feeling fresh, but they're making a grotty mess clogging up sewerage systems around the world as the main culprits for producing congealed lumps known as "fatbergs".

Fatbergs are made of wet wipes, sanitary items and fat, and they're a plumber's nightmare.

A particularly offensive fatberg the size of a double-decker bus took 10 days to remove from the sewerage system in London a few years ago and more recently a Sydney Water customer copped a $16,000 plumbing bill as a result of wipes blocking the sewer pipes on their property.

Gympie Regional Council spokeswoman Vanessa Scott said although fatbergs weren't yet clogging up Gympie's sewerage systems, the risk was growing.

"Wet wipes are increasingly being flushed down toilets and have the potential to cause problems with pumping equipment and sewage treatment plant screens," Ms Scott said.

"This can lead to sewage overflows."

Ms Scott said council has had long-running problems with people flushing inappropriate items, with the usual suspects being soiled underwear, nappies, rags and chemicals.

Wallets, telephones, toys and balls have also made their way into Gympie's sewerage systems.

"People are reminded that a sewerage system is designed for disposal of organic matter, not plastics, chemicals or cloth," Ms Scott said.

Wet wipes may seem more loo-friendly, but even "flushable" labels on wet wipe products can be misleading.

"Even if a wet wipe is labelled 'flushable' it should not be flushed," she said.

Consumer group Choice has already lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about wet wipe manufacturers' claims the product is flushable.

A spokeswoman from Kleenex's parent company, Kimberly-Clark, said that only 9% of wet wipe blockages were caused by the "flushable" variety of wipes.

"We are aware of some of the concerns that the wider community has shared and we are continuously working with the water authorities and industry groups to better understand clogging and sewerage blockage," she said.

no-nos

 Wet wipes

 Sanitary items

 Cotton balls

 Food scraps

 Nappies

 Pet litter

Gympie Times


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