25 Feb 2016

Huge wet wipes blockage hauled up in NSW

3:34 pm on 25 February 2016

An enormous wet wipes sewer blockage in a New South Wales water pipe points to a global waste issue, the region's water manager says.

Toilet wet wipes

Photo: RNZ / Shannon Gillies

Hunter Water Corporation removed the blockage from a pipe near Newcastle, caused by a build-up of wet wipes, which he said were continuing to cause serious problems around the world.

Much of the blockage in Lake Macquarie north of Sydney was removed using a crane, while the rest had to be removed by hand, Hunter Water's Nick Kaiser said.

"The wet wipes are being advertised as basically an extra way to freshen yourself up after the bathroom," he said.

"The whole flushable wet wipe issue is actually a global issue."

The wet wipes 'fatburg' removed from a sewerage pipe in Eleebana, NSW.

The wet wipes 'fatburg' removed from a sewerage pipe in Eleebana, NSW. Photo: TWITTER / @HunterWater

Mr Kaiser said, despite the marketing, the wipes were anything but "flushable".

"The safest way to think about what you can put down your toilet is the three Ps - pee, paper and poo," he said.

"Everything else should stay out of the sewer. Unfortunately, there are no actual standards for what is flushable.

"So you'll flush the toilet and the wet wipe will disappear, but it just doesn't break down."

Mr Kaiser said if the wet wipes did not cause a blockage in the system, they would typically find their way to a sewerage treatment plant.

"Then it's just a matter of them getting filtered out and then they go into landfill," he said.

Mr Kaiser said the wipes could cause problems all the way through the sewer system and even once they reached a wastewater treatment plant.

"Things like floss, cotton buds, even coffee granules have to be filtered out of the sewer at some point," he said.

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