Canberrans are being urged not to flush away the ubiquitous wet wipe in a bid to reduce the amount of sewer blockages the national capital’s water utility has to clear every year.
The wet wipe menace, combined with the thousands of street trees in Canberra, makes for a challenging time for Icon Water’s Blockage Busters who delve into the dark underbelly of Canberra to keep the pipes clear.
Icon Water has launched a fresh campaign, Free the Poo, to alert Canberrans of the threat the convenient but hardy wet wipe poses to its vital infrastructure.
The campaign may carry a fun title but it has a serious message – wet wipes are not for the toilet or the drain.
It says Canberra has recently been ranked as one of the worst Australian cities when it comes to total sewer main breaks and chokes per 100 kilometres of pipes and the utility spent more than $1.7 million clearing blockages in 2019-2020.
With more than 48,000 trees lining the sometimes parched capital’s streets, tree roots often creep into sewerage pipes in search of water.
Icon says that many blockages occur when wet wipes get caught or entangled with tree roots.
Icon Water Managing Director Ray Hezkial said the message was simple: “Help us ‘free the poo’ so it flows to our treatment plant instead of being blocked up, or worse, flowing back to you.”
“With ‘Free the poo’, we especially hope to decrease the number of wet wipes being flushed down Canberra’s toilets. We often don’t consider what’s happening below ground until we have to face the gross consequences above the ground, like a sewage overflow.”
Mr Hezkial said wet wipes were more like cloth than toilet paper and unlike toilet paper, not made to break down.
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He said they may get flushed down the toilet but they then cause disruption and blockages at every stage of Icon’s treatment process.
“We’re asking Canberrans to bin their wet wipes instead of flushing them. Only the 3Ps should be flushed down the toilet – pee, poo and (toilet) paper,” Mr Hezkial said.
He said Icon’s Blockage Buster crews had to climb down into the sewer and physically tear apart huge clumps of rubbish – mostly made up of wet wipes.
“Not only is this physically unpleasant for our staff, but it also causes significant disruptions to the lives of Canberrans and is ultimately costly for our community,” Icon says.
“As your water and wastewater services provider, we care about what’s happening below the ground. Sanitation and hygiene are an essential but understated part of our beautiful city. Our community is only as healthy as the pipes that carry our waste away.”
To learn more visit the campaign website.