Wipes, cloths block system

Wet wipes and cloths are continuing to block Riverton’s wastewater system. PHOTO: ABBEY PALMER
Wet wipes and cloths are continuing to block Riverton’s wastewater system. PHOTO: ABBEY PALMER
A surge in wet wipes used for sanitising during Covid-19 is causing blockages for Riverton’s wastewater system.

Images of clumps of material trapped in the town’s pipes were on display at Southland District Council’s [SDC] services and assets committee meeting yesterday — a sight which caught councillors’ attention.

SDC water and waste manager operations Bill Witham, who wrote the July 2020 Downer Water Report, said there had been an increase in blockages caused specifically by wet wipes, along with Chux cloths, in recent times.

"It’s terrible stuff . . . we regularly put notices out in the [local Riverton] magazine about this.

"Just to be clear, this is not a one-off, the boys [Downer contractors] clear blockages in almost every district."

Mr Witham said it was "tricky" to get the message out there — people should be conscious of what they put down their toilets.

It had been proven wet wipes did not break down in wastewater systems and, so, should not be flushed, he said.

Cr Douglas said a "multi-pronged" approach needed to be applied to address the issue.

"We need to get [the public] aware and educated around the pitfalls that they are causing in our network."

Councillors agreed they needed to get on board with community messaging and rally together for change.

Mr Witham said Water NZ had been lobbying for change from the Government to stop the marketing of wet wipes.

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