Don't flush wipes or your home plumbing might become clogged, North Bay officials warn amid COVID-19

NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- The massive number of people using sanitary wipes to disinfect during the coronavirus outbreak is threatening sewage plants and officials say the wipes can even pose a danger to your home plumbing.

Dramatic video taken by the Novato Sanitary District Friday morning shows water shooting out of sewage treatment equipment clogged by wipes, with many more used wipes all over the floor.

"We were basically faced with a deluge of wipes," said general manager Sandeep Karkal.

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Wipes do not break down in sewage systems and have been clogging pipes and treatment plants for years, but officials are worried the problem is suddenly getting a lot worse.

Earlier this week, sewage bubbled up out of a manhole cover on a San Rafael street.

Mike Prinz, general manager of the Los Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, blames it on what he calls "non-flushables" that blocked the pipes and created the spill.

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Prinz says it is critical people stop flushing products that are not made to go down the toilet. In addition to wipes, he says paper towels and napkins also should not be flushed. Even your own home can be at risk.

"The pipe you block may be actually your own pipe, and in that case your toilet won't flush, your shower won't drain, your sink will back up," Prinz said. "We are obviously facing a really tough time right now, but it could actually be made worse if you had a backup for your house as well."

Novato Sanitary District uses a motto to remind people not to use their toilet as a trash can. "Flush only the three p's. Pee, Poop and TP (toilet paper)."

The California Water Resources Board says no wipes should ever be flushed, even if the label says they are flushable.

The mess created by the wipes at Novato Sanitary District was in an area with restricted access and there was no danger to the public.
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