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Bathroom wipes causing clogs in isle sewer system

By June Watanabe

LAST UPDATED: 08:40 p.m. HST, Sep 26, 2013

Question: I read the story in Monday’s Star-Advertiser — http://is.gd/HeE9f7is.gd/HeE9f7 — about how those pre-moistened bathroom wipes are clogging the sewers across the mainland and wonder, has this been a problem for Honolulu?

Answer: Yes, it has.

So much so that city Department of Environmental Services is looking to see if it can regulate what actually goes into the sewer system.

Four months ago, the department’s Collection System Maintenance Division assigned “a consultant to review other municipality ordinances and regulations in an effort to prohibit all materials other than toilet paper from entering into the sewage system,” said spokesman Markus Owens.

Meanwhile, don’t think it’s OK to flush anything down a toilet.

“The only items that should be flushed down the toilet are toilet paper and what comes out of you,” Owens said. “Despite what labeling may suggest, nothing else should be deposited in a toilet.”

The problem, as reported, is that “flushable” wipes do not break down in the sewer system and can become lodged in pipes, eventually blocking the line and causing a sewer overflow or spill, he said.

“Our crews have responded to trouble calls in residential areas and found these wipes in the system,” Owens said. “These wipes also contribute to recurring problems at our pumping stations. They do not break down and create additional work for our crews who have to repeatedly remove them on a monthly or weekly basis.”

If the wipes make it to the sewage treatment plants, they must be extracted and transported to the landfill, he said.

It’s not only these wipes that don’t break down.

“Dental floss, diapers, sanitary napkins and hand towels also regularly lead to blockages in our system,” Owens said. Flushing of all these types of materials has resulted in “continuous problems that divert personnel, who would better serve our primary mission of maintaining our facilities.”

Instead of dumping them in the toilet, just place them in a plastic bag and put them in the trash can, where they then can be burned at the HPOWER plant to produce electricity, he said.

Question: Can you provide the English version to “Hawaii Pono‘i”?

Answer: Here is the translation of Hawaii’s state song, which was written by King David Kalakaua in 1874, and put to music by Capt. Henri Berger, the king’s royal bandmaster.

Hawai‘i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
Nana i kou mo‘i (Be loyal to your chief)
Ka lani ali‘i (Your country’s liege and lord)
Ke ali‘i (The chief)

Hui (Chorus)
Makua lani e (Royal father)
Kamehameha e (Kamehameha)
Na kaua e pale (Shall defend in war)
Me ka ihe (With spears)

Hawai’i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
Nana i na ali‘i (Look to your chief)
Na pua muli kou (Those chiefs of younger birth)
Na poki‘i (Younger descent)

Hawai‘i pono‘i (Hawaii’s own true sons)
E ka lahui e (People of loyal heart)
‘O kau hana nui (The only duty lies)
E u ie (List and abide)


To Bert, for his kind assistance when my tire blew out on the Pali Highway last month and I pulled into Akamu Place. Mahalo also to the mother and daughter who invited me to their home if I needed anything. Your compassion and caring made a trying situation less stressful. — Liz

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@ staradvertiser.com. Not every question can be answered.

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Kate53 wrote:
If the wipes and other stuff isn't breaking down, the makers of those products should be sued to stop labeling those item "flushable". Those makers should also be required to put NON-FLUSHABLE on the packaging in a prominent place and in capital letters. If you think it's bad for sewer systems, it's even worse for septic systems!
on September 26,2013 | 03:47AM
miss_laulau wrote:
There was an article in the Daily Mail about wipes clogging the London sewer system and there was picture of a humongous blob that the workers had to clear away. That blob was really spooky looking. I agree with Kate53 that the packaging should denote whether the wipes are flushable or not.
on September 26,2013 | 05:37AM
eoe wrote:
I can tell you people don't care. My block is on private sewer system. We have about 15 houses, everybody knows each other. And yet we are racking up thousands of dollars a month in charges because people continue to flush wipes down the toilet clogging our pumps and grinders, even after a half dozen emails and homeowner meetings. It's really unbelievable. If our single block can't police this, there is no way in some anonymous subdivision in Honolulu they are going to be able to enforce what people put down the drain.
on September 26,2013 | 06:30AM
lee1957 wrote:
There are ways to pinpoint the offenders.
on September 26,2013 | 11:51AM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
on September 26,2013 | 12:24PM
st1d wrote:
traps set at property lines to snag wipes will identify individual abusers.
on September 26,2013 | 01:25PM
leino wrote:
More people would probably use regular toilet paper in public restrooms if there were any to use. The supply frequently runs about around noon at busy rest rooms. So many akamai folks carry their own. Regarding used female sanitary napkins, since there is no waste basket or other receptacle they get flushed. Also it is not uncommon for the toilet paper holders to be vandalized. What is uncommon is for them to be repaired quickly. So sometimes there is no paper on account of the broken hardware. If a temporary plastic holder is fashioned as a replacement it looks tacky and is sometimes used for waste disposal. Not sanitary! City Parks needs to do a better job both in the field and oversight/supervision.
on September 26,2013 | 06:37AM
false wrote:
Put video cameras in each stall to catch the culprits? The problem is that people just don't care enough although trash containers are a good idea.
on September 26,2013 | 10:34AM
Makua wrote:
One solution is to install the Asian toilet seat. It acts like a bidet by warm water spraying your rear. With this you have no need for the wipes. Currently the Asian seat is expensive.
on September 26,2013 | 06:44AM
mikethenovice wrote:
The toilet is not a wastebasket. Only human waste should be flushed down.
on September 26,2013 | 07:02AM
2NDC wrote:
If only we could figure out a way to fit obama into the toilet, you'd be on to something! :-D
on September 26,2013 | 09:54AM
hilopango wrote:
You made me laugh with that one!
on September 26,2013 | 12:21PM
mikethenovice wrote:
But the Republicans fit in the water closet when you flush.
on September 28,2013 | 05:19AM
awakumr wrote:
Way to go Bert. Good job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on September 26,2013 | 07:49AM
2NDC wrote:
I agree. We need more people like "Bert" in the world.
on September 26,2013 | 09:54AM
localguy wrote:
Word is the Department of Environmental Services had to install a 36" sewer line at Honolulu Hale due to all the C R A P the bureaucrats produce on a daily basis. As for the Governor's work area, I hear the line is so big you could walk through it and not touch the walls.
on September 26,2013 | 07:56AM
cojef wrote:
Just checked our "Wipes" and searched to determine if it was flushable_ none found, meaning how to dispose it. Problem is, I use it to wipe my bottom after using the toilet paper.
on September 26,2013 | 10:28AM
hilopango wrote:
Even the ones labeled "flushable" usually don't break down enough to get through the sewer system without clogging. I use wipes as well, and they go into the trash can.
on September 26,2013 | 12:22PM
2NDC wrote:
TMI dude! :-O
on September 27,2013 | 12:23AM
mikethenovice wrote:
And do not dump the hot cooking oil down the drain. It cools off and hardens clogging the pipes under the streets.
on September 28,2013 | 05:17AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Hot cooking oil clogs the pipes as well.
on September 28,2013 | 05:19AM
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