SANTA BARBARA The city of Santa Barbara issued a statement this week urging residents to throw wipes and paper towels into the trash rather than flushing them down the toilet due to the potential for sewer backups.
“City Wastewater staff has seen a substantial increase in the number of wipes and paper towels since the COVID-19 pandemic began. These products do not break down and often get stuck in pipes which increases the risk of private sewer spills,” said Amanda Fleese, wastewater system manager for the city.
The use of wipes recently caused a “costly blockage” at a multi-unit housing property on the Mesa, which resulted in the closure of a walking path and community exposure to raw wastewater.
“Flushing wipes, paper towels, or similar items can cause costly damage to private plumbing and the City’s sewer system. Even wipes that are labeled as ‘flushable’ and ‘septic–safe’ do not degrade in the sewer system, and, when mixed with fats, oils, and grease, can cause blockage in pipes that may result in sewer spills,” Ms. Fleese said.
The average recovery charge added to a property owner’s utility bill for the city to respond to and contain a private sewage spill is $540. This price does not include the cost for cleanup or the cost to repair damaged private plumbing- those prices vary depending on the plumber and severity of the issue, she said.
“Please remember, wipes don’t belong in pipes. Your toilet is a ‘human-waste-and-toilet-paper-only zone,’” she said. “Community members can protect their private plumbing and the City’s infrastructure by only flushing the 3 Ps: pee, poo, and paper.”
For more information on what to flush, visit www.santabarbaraca.gov/wtf.