Wake County

Raleigh says ‘flushed wipes’ clogged pipe, sending sewage into Walnut Creek

The city of Raleigh says a build up of “flushed wipes” caused a sewer spill on the south side of the city over the weekend that put an estimated 22,650 gallons of sewage into Walnut Creek.

Someone reported the spill in the 2500 block of South Saunders Road, just south of the Beltline, at about 2 p.m. Sunday, and city crews had cleared the blockage by 3:40 p.m. City officials say clean-up could take until 3 p.m. Monday.

The city says people shouldn’t flush anything down their toilets except human waste and toilet paper, putting it at odds with companies who claim their wipes are “flushable.” City officials, backed by other utility groups around the country, say even wipes that are designed to be flushed down the toilet don’t break down fast enough to prevent them from gumming up the sewage system.

But Cary-based INDA, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, claims to have developed industry guidelines for determining what qualifies as a “flushable” wipe and says the problems in sewers start with consumers who put baby wipes and other non-flushable wipes down the toilet. INDA’s president Dave Rousse complained to the Raleigh Public Utilities Department last month when it blamed a 39,000-gallon sewage spill on “flushable wipes.”

This time the city didn’t assume the wipes were marketed as flushable, but referred to them as “flushed wipes” nonetheless.