Lift station lesson: Don’t flush lingerie down the toilet

Resident’s disposal of garment jams pump, forces shutdown of sewer facility
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press staff

A Fredonia sewer lift station was temporarily shut down recently after someone flushed some lingerie down their toilet, jamming the lift station pump, village Public Works Director Roger Strohm said this week.

Fortunately, the station, which lifts sewage from lower to higher levels, wasn’t shut down long enough to cause any backups, Strohm said. 

But the incident, regardless of the story behind why the garment was disposed of, does serve as a reminder of what can and should not be thrown down a toilet.

“Shop rags, diapers, underwear ... things like that. Unless it’s toilet paper, it shouldn’t go down the toilet,” Strohm said.

“It happens a few times a year” when pumps are shut down because they get jammed with such debris, Strohm said. An alarm goes off to let workers know a problem has developed. If left jammed long enough, backups can occur, potentially flooding residents’ basements.

Another common flushing no-no, he said, is the increased use of so-called flushable wet wipes that don’t break apart in the treatment process, and, as a result, can clog systems.

The wipes can cluster with congealed food fat to form large blockages, the most notorious of which occurred a few years ago in England when a 15-ton glob of wipes and hardened cooking grease the size of a bus — nicknamed “Fatberg” — was discovered blocking a London sewer pipe. 

For that reason, “don’t dump grease down the kitchen sink,” Strohm said. “That clogs the pipes. Soak it up with paper towels or something and throw it in the garbage.”

Flushing other seemingly innocuous items also can cause unforeseen environmental issues, he said. 

Contact lenses, for instance, aren’t treated at the treatment plant and go into the water systems and out to Lake Michigan where they can cause mischief. 

Also, prescription medicines don’t break down as they move through the system.

“They end up in the river and affect fish, frogs, turtles and other wildlife,” he said.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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