Community & Environment

Locked-down Hamiltonians flushing ‘wet wipes’ and other debris, increasing pipe blockages

Aerial shot of the waste water plant

Hamilton City Council is urging Hamiltonians to not flush ‘wet wipes’ and other debris down their toilets as the wastewater system deals with increased pressure during Alert Level 4.

Workers at the Pukete wastewater treatment plant have noticed an increase in blockages since the nationwide lockdown was announced on 17 August, including 22 in pipes and 10 wastewater pump faults. One of the biggest contributors to these blockages is fabric wipes and other materials, which are being flushed down people’s toilets.

“Blockages caused by foreign objects like wet wipes can create wastewater overflows and damage to our pipes, pumps, and other infrastructure,” said Emily Botje, City Waters Unit Manager at Hamilton City Council.

“Blockages and failures at pump stations caused by these materials take essential staff out of their home bubbles and away from managing and maintaining the city’s wastewater network.”

While many brands of wipes are marketed and labelled as ‘flushable,’ they contain plastic and other non-woven fibres. These fibres don’t break down in the same way that toilet paper does, so they collect and clog up the city’s pipes and pumps.

Everything put down the drain or flushed down the toilet is transported through the hundreds of kilometres of underground pipes and over 140 pumping stations that make up Hamilton’s wastewater system, before being pumped through to the treatment plant at Pukete.

Throwing wipes and other items in the rubbish, rather than flushing them down the toilet, can help to prevent blockages and in turn, protect our environment.

Some everyday items that should not be flushed include wet wipes, nappies, sanitary items, cotton buds, oils and grease, food scraps, paper, plastics, paints and paint rinse water.

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