‘Free the poo’ plea as Icon tackles wet wipe menace

Ian Bushnell 29 July 2021 28
Icon worker clears the Acton syphon sewer vent fan

An Icon worker clears the Acton syphon sewer vent fan. Photo: Icon Water.

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.

READ ALSO: The best plumbers in Canberra

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.

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28 Responses to ‘Free the poo’ plea as Icon tackles wet wipe menace
Rachel Jay Rachel Jay 5:22 am 31 Jul 21

Install a bidet seriously 🤦‍♀️

Danika Aleriah Zaiden Peter Danika Aleriah Zaiden Peter 3:35 pm 30 Jul 21

I mean since all the panic buyers wanted to buy all the toilet paper a few times the only other option was wet wipes 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️ I feel sorry for these guys that have to clean in up

Toni Isaacson Toni Isaacson 4:42 am 30 Jul 21

My parents' house flooded with backed-up sewerage while they were on holiday because neighbours flushed wipes. Six months of complete renovation followed, as everything was contaminated.

Brayto Revell Brayto Revell 9:59 pm 29 Jul 21

Jordan Lohse nath written all over it

Kyle Sharpe Kyle Sharpe 7:44 pm 29 Jul 21

That’s a sh#t job. 👀

Janet Ilchef Janet Ilchef 6:33 pm 29 Jul 21


Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 6:28 pm 29 Jul 21

Thomas Petricevic !! Into the bin...

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 6:08 pm 29 Jul 21

Never flush wet ones blocks the toilet and plumbers very expensive

    Ampliss Kinkaide Ampliss Kinkaide 12:15 pm 30 Jul 21

    Jeannou Zoides yep ... they charge way more for unblocking 'flushable' wipes because it takes them longer .... the wipes get tangled in their electric eel because they don't disintegrate like toilet paper

Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 6:03 pm 29 Jul 21

Not all wet wipes are flushable specially the ones that state do not flush 🤦🏾‍♀️

    Senavis Shaleen Senavis Shaleen 6:20 pm 29 Jul 21

    Jody Maree Harrison even the ‘flushable’

    Ones arent really biodegradable. So best to not flush any (or use water instead!)

    Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 6:36 pm 29 Jul 21

    Dose biodegradable mean over time tho and most likely not submerged by waste water ? I don’t no but I take my hat off to the guys and girls unclogging human stupidity yet again .

    Rosemary Brooker Rosemary Brooker 9:15 pm 29 Jul 21

    Jody Maree Harrison I think wipes have plastic in them, so will not break down. Flush at your own risk as I have read that people have had a toilet blockage erupting into their bathroom. Plumbing bills can be expensive to repair the damage.

    Michael Wittman Michael Wittman 9:19 am 30 Jul 21

    Jody Maree Harrison none of them are flushable… that’s the point

    Steffen Ohnesorge Steffen Ohnesorge 11:05 am 30 Jul 21

    The best way is not flush anything than toilet paper down the toilet. We use wipes too in our household for person hygiene, but we always put them in small doggy-poo bags to dispose it in rubbish bin. I believe it doesn’t help our sewer workers to wait for the industry to produce a real flushable wipes if we can do something about it right now .

    Jody Maree Harrison Jody Maree Harrison 4:21 pm 30 Jul 21

    Michael Wittman

    Don’t flush em .

    Toilet paper hoarders stop hoarding all the flushable paper

Jennifer Moriarty Jennifer Moriarty 5:08 pm 29 Jul 21

I bet people would stop doing it if they had to get down in the mess and fix the issue. And people wonder why rates and Icon bills are so high

Steve McGrory Steve McGrory 4:39 pm 29 Jul 21

The companies that marketed them as flushable wipes should be funding this!

    Steve McGrory Steve McGrory 6:18 pm 29 Jul 21

    Kylie Wood PS I have two special need kids and have gone through 10+ wipes a day for 9 years. Not once did I flush them.

    Steve McGrory Steve McGrory 6:18 pm 29 Jul 21

    That’s more than 35,000

jwinston jwinston 2:57 pm 29 Jul 21

I use wet wipes and I pay high rates for someone to clean the sewerage pipes. I’m still gonna use them

    Jenny Graves Jenny Graves 5:41 pm 29 Jul 21

    If I use them, I put them in a doggy poo bag and dispose of them in the bin. It’s really not hard. Bear in mind that the costs of clearing the sewers are passed on to all of us as customers. It’s not a cost of your rates, it’s a charge that is included in your water and sewerage bills. Isn’t it worthwhile making a simple change to keep your bills down?

    jwinston jwinston 6:26 am 30 Jul 21

    Jenny Graves – don’t look at it as a cost for clearing the sewers, look at it as job creation.

    Sam Oak Sam Oak 9:51 am 30 Jul 21

    Exactly why I never throw my trash in the bin, I throw it on the street. With how high my rates are they can afford street sweepers to clean that up!

    chewy14 chewy14 7:15 pm 30 Jul 21

    This is quite possibly the silliest thing I’ve seen on this website.

    “I pay high prices for a product so I’m going to deliberately try and make it go higher out of spite”.


Brianna Brianna 1:32 pm 29 Jul 21

Wet wipes are designed for convenience. Technically, they can be flushed but morally they should not be flushed. It is the laziness of those who use them and flush them that causes the problems. I would love to see a manufacturer advertise their wipes as “NOT TO BE FLUSHED”.

Gassed Gassed 1:04 pm 29 Jul 21

Until wet wipes are banned for sale this will always be an issue
No amount of advertising will change this

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