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The Madera Tribune

What to flush, and what not to flush

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webmaster | 05/30/12

To flush or not to flush? That is the question. Can we be forgiven for flushing those things we ought not to have flushed? Thanks to the Chowchilla Public Works Department, we may be able to answer those questions.

Chowchilla admits its own sewer system is aging, and can’t cope with many of the allegedly flushable products which have been foisted on the public works departments of the nation. But even newer, upgraded sewer systems find they have to do a lot of screening to keep allegedly flushable items from clogging up their pipes and treatment plants.

“Just because an item is called ‘disposable or flushable’ doesn’t mean it is safe to flush,” the Chowchilla Public Works Department cautions in its communication with its citizens. “Instead you should bag it and put it in the garbage ... don’t flush it!

“Sewers are designed to take away wastewater from sinks and baths, as well as toilet paper and human waste flushed down the toilet. Our sewers are not designed to cope with modern disposable products.”

Here is what you should not flush, no matter what the package says about flushability: Razors and blades, napkins (paper, cloth or sanitary), facial tissues, any kind of wipes, toilet bowl scrub pads, dental floss, hair, egg shells, nutshells, coffee grounds, fats, oils, and grease (aka FOG). Add to that food items containing seeds and peelings (even if you run them through a garbage disposer first), towels (paper or cloth), anything made of rubber, plastic, cloth or metal.

Here is what good sewer-users should do: Avoid purchasing “flushable” items. Clean with a reusable rag or sponge. Compost your food waste items. Try to limit or eliminate your garbage disposal use.

Discard hazardous materials properly. Motor oil, antifreeze and other household hazardous waste can be disposed of free of charge to Madera County residents at the Fairmead Landfill.

Only flush toilet paper and human waste. If you have questions about what is okay to flush, call your local public works department and ask. The cities are responsible for cleaning their pipes, and they frequently clear blockages; however, homeowners are responsible for maintaining side sewers which connect from their homes to their municipal main lines in the streets. Fixing those connections can be expensive — in the thousands of dollars.

Normally, I wouldn’t foist all this information on you, but I sometimes worry about it, and so I think some of you must worry about it, too.


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