‘Flushable’ wipes force divers to travel 80-90 feet into raw sewage to clear clogs

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Officials with the Charleston Water System in Charleston, South Carolina shared a series of photos on social media showing the foul mess wipes advertised as “flushable” create inside sewer pipes.

(Charleston Water)

They said wipes clogged a series of large pumps at their “Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant” on Thursday, Oct. 11, requiring employees to work 24 hours a day for five days to clear them. In the meantime, a series of bypass pumps had to be used to handle the normal daily flow.

It took three days, using the bypass pumps, to get back to normal levels in the “wet well” at the Charleston Water System.

To deal with the clogs, officials sent divers 80 to 90 feet deep into that wet well, filled with raw sewage, where they searched in complete darkness with their hands to find the obstruction. When the divers come up, they get sprayed down in a bleach bath.

They came back up with large masses of wipes — initially bringing up two loads when diving began.

The final dives were completed on Tuesday, Oct. 16, when normal operations resumed.

Officials asked that you please only flush #1, #2 and toilet paper.

The water department there says most wipes belong in the landfill. Only non-woven, biodegradable wipes break down in water like toilet paper.