Wet wipes promoted as “flushable” toilet tissue are causing a stink for Central Otago waterwork engineers.
The district’s sewerage network regularly has to be unblocked and wet-wipe products were among the causes, Central Otago District Council (CODC) water services manager Quentin Adams said.
He said the problem was related to wet-wipe products in general, not necessarily baby wet wipes.
Many of the products on New Zealand supermarket shelves are labelled as “flushable”, which had caused confusion among consumers, he said.
The CODC, along with many other New Zealand councils, was working to educate producers of such products, along with distributors and consumers.
As part of that, a lot of work was going on around testing and developing standards for flushability, he said.
Blockages in the Central Otago sewerage network caused about one pump failure a month.
Treatment plants were screened each month. On average, 20% of what was found was a wet-wipe type of product, Mr Adams said.
“It’s not something we are having to do every single day, but it’s having an impact on different parts of the [pipe] network.”
The council was now turning its focus towards educating the community, as some other councils were also doing.
“Our council is one of 12 at the moment which are providing funding for flushable standards in conjunction with Water New Zealand.
“This will hopefully [help come up with] some standards – what’s considered flushable and what isn’t and provide further funding to test those products.”
CODC water services engineer Todd Sherlaw said raising awareness was key.
“It doesn’t help when the package says it’s flushable.”
CODC was also looking to improve the screening process for its wastewater system.
Mr Adams said ultimately, the key focus was to raise awareness and improve discharge into the environment.