The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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June 16, 2013

Baby wipes blight pipes

Clumping cloths raise Cain with St. Peter's sewer system

ST. PETER — Cleaning cloths for babies' bums are blocking up St. Peter's sewer system.

Commercial baby wipes may be a boon to parenting. but they've become a bane for the city's sanitary sewer pipes and pumps.

Water Utilities Supt. Pete Moulton said the thick sheets, though marketed as flushable, are troublesome for municipal lines because they don't break down like toilet paper.

Rather, they accumulate in the system and form tumor-like masses that must be broken down with a grinder or blasted apart with a high-pressure spray.

"We've seen them as big as a bowling ball," Moulton said. "If they got stuck in a homeowner's line, they wouldn't be flushing them down the toilet."

He said the wipes weren't that popular until a a few years ago, and now their prevalence has become problematic for sewer systems not only in St. Peter but other towns as well.

City officials said more than $40,000 was spent last year in repairs to wastewater pumps, and they're asking residents to dispose of wipes in the trash rather than toilets.

— Brian Ojanpa

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