Baby Wipes Causing Big Problem for Water Department

Ellis Creek staff say personal care products are clogging up pipes and breaking machinery

The City of Petaluma Water Resources Department is asking (begging) residents to be mindful of what they put down the toilet.

“Unless you eat it or drink it or it’s toilet paper, don’t flush it down” says Ryan Smith, the lead operator at Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility on South McDowell Boulevard.

Since opening in 2009, the facility has been waging a war on personal care products, such as baby wipes, that are clogging up pipes. It’s not uncommon for Smith and other workers to pull up balls of wipes the size of a printer.

Two months ago, the problem got so bad that the accumulated wipes broke a pump at the city's main pump station on Hopper Street. It cost more than $25,000 to fix it.

“For a lot of people, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Smith said. “But it doesn’t go away, it just comes here.”

That’s why Smith wants to remind the public to dispose of items like tampons, tampon applicators or condoms in the trash instead of the toilet.

Ellis Creek is a $115 million wastewater recycling facility built two years ago to replace an outdated treatment facility on Hopper Street. The city's wastewater is collected at eight pumps around Petaluma and then transmitted to Ellis Creek, where it's treated. It is then repurposed for toilet water, fire protection and landscape irrigation.

Frank Simpson June 30, 2011 at 12:19 AM
They used to have a newsletter that they mailed with the water bill. If it still eeists, it may help to make mention of it in their next billing cycle


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