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Watch what you flush

By Anne Homan

City of Lennox Utilities Superintendent, Kyle Ramynke holds up a grate he had just cleaned three days prior. With certain items, unable to decompose, are flushed Ramynke said this creates quite the mess to deal with at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The city of Lennox is reminding people to watch what they’re flushing.

“When people flush inorganic material down their toilet it simply doesn’t disappear, it has to end up somewhere,” said Kyle Ramynke, City of Lennox Utilities Superintendent, and that somewhere is the city’s Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Ramynke noted this is not a new problem to any community but because of the continual problem of people flushing “unflushable” products, the city has had to increase its maintenance schedule to cleaning the pumps two times a year. There are currently four lift stations in town.

Items like paper towels, “flushable” wipes, diapers, baby wipes, feminine products, and more need to be put in the trash and not flushed. Any time a solid matter is put down the toilet or drain it has the potential to cause a blockage in the public sewer or even your own private drain. This causes risks of backups, failure of equipment, and potential health hazards.

Nate Vander Plaats, City Administrator, said, “Ultimately it comes back to them [Lennox citizens]. When we need to make repairs the money only comes from one place.”

When the wrong products are flushed, it can cause an increase in operation and maintenance costs for the city and lead to higher bills for the taxpayers.

Backups can also be an expensive and unpleasant cleanup for a homeowner. Both Ramynke and Vander Plaats said they have seen people’s personal expenses reach up to $10,000 when dealing with sewer problems.

Disposing of the wrong items down your toilet or drain causes extra work to be done at the City’s Wastewater Treatment plant as the products will not break down properly.

During a tour of the facility, Ramynke showed one of the grates that he had cleaned on Monday and by Thursday morning it was filled with sludge of items that had been flushed but can not break down.

Treatment plants can effectively remove toilet paper from wastewater but all other items should go into the trash.

The City wants to make the residents aware of the negative impact this can have on the City’s sewer systems. And remind people that when these items are flushed there is a risk that the city’s sewer system may not run as efficiently. When materials get stuck in the pumps it makes it tougher for the pumps to do their job, leading to potential backups, costly for both homeowners and taxpayers and backups can also create a health hazard.

“If we can just change five people’s minds it will be worth it,” said Ramynke. His hope is that those five people with share with another five people and soon all will be aware of the damages of flushing the wrong items.

Wondering what to flush and what not to flush? A simple rule of thumb is to only flush toilet paper and human waste.

Here is a more specific list of what not to flush:

• Bags / wrappings and cardboard

• Band-aids and bandage wrappers

• Cleaning wipes

• Flushable wipes

• Cotton balls, swabs and pads

• Dental floss and teeth whitening strips

• Disposable diapers, nursing pads, and baby wipes

• Facial wipes

• Flammable or explosive substances

• Hair

• Kitty litter

• Expired and unused prescription or over-the-counter medications

• Mini and maxi-pads, tampons and applicators

• Motor oil, transmission fluids, anti-freeze or other toxic chemicals

• Needles and sharps

• Paper towels

• Rags

• Solvents, paints, turpentine, nail polish, polish remover


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