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Lilydale and Chirnside Park locals urged to keep wet wipes out of the pipes

Lilydale and Chirnside Park residents are flushing tonnes of wet wipes down the toilet every year, which are clogging the local sewer system and helping to create fatbergs.

Yarra Valley Water is urging locals to stop flushing wet wipes down the toilet to prevent blockages and expensive damage to sewer pipes.

Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty said that many people are unaware that wet wipes are not flushable.

“A lot of wet wipes are marketed as ‘flushable’, but this is very misleading because they don’t break down and they clog our pipes and drains,” Mr McCafferty said.

“We work really hard to retrieve wet wipes from sewers, but we do still sometimes get a build-up of them which can cause blockages, inconveniences to customers and harm to the environment. 

“Add fats and oils that people pour down the drain and the fatberg is born,” Mr McCafferty said.

Fatbergs are large masses of congealed fat and personal hygiene products like wet wipes that have been flushed down the toilet. Yarra Valley Water spends nearly $1 million each year removing fatbergs across the eastern and northern suburbs and fixing the damage they cause in sewer pipes.

A huge wet wipe backlog caused a significant sewage spill in Chirnside Park last year, prompting Yarra Valley Water to launch a campaign reminding residents that wet wipes should not be flushed down the toilet.  

The Lilydale sewage treatment plant retrieves 144 tonnes of wet wipes and rags from the sewage system every year, which is three tonnes every week.

The Water Services Association of Australia estimates that blockages caused by wet wipes are costing the urban water industry in Australia over $15 million each year. 

Wet wipe blockages can also cause expensive plumbing problems for households with some reporting plumbing bills of $1000 because of wet wipes. 

Tips for customers to avoid wet wipe blockages and fatbergs in the sewer system:

  • Only pee, poo and toilet paper should be flushed.
  • Wet wipes should go in the bin – even ones that say they are flushable. This also goes for sanitary products, nappies and condoms.
  • Put oils, fats and food scraps in the bin, rather than down the sink.
  • Small amounts of household cleaners and detergents are fine in the sewer — but don't flush or wash harsher chemicals such as paint down the drain.