Reusable wipes put forward as sewage system saviour

GUERNSEY’S sewage system is under siege from wet wipes, which make up the majority of the so-called ‘fatbergs’ removed from the Belle Greve wastewater centre.

Hazel Seymour, operations manager for maternity & paediatrics, with a pack of the reusable wipes it is giving away in a joint campaign with Guernsey Water.  (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30271083)
Hazel Seymour, operations manager for maternity & paediatrics, with a pack of the reusable wipes it is giving away in a joint campaign with Guernsey Water. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30271083)

Every week, approximately 1.6 tonnes of non-biodegradable material has to be taken out and sent to landfill, in what it is said to be an unpleasant job.

The dank, grey, smelly, impenetrable clusters are mainly made of wet wipes mixed with food fats and an intake of sewage.

Guernsey Water is trying to discourage people from flushing wipes down the toilet by promoting the use of reusable alternatives.

It has partnered with the hospital’s maternity services to give away 1,000 reusable baby wipes to expectant parents in antenatal classes.

Maternity and paediatrics operations manager Hazel Seymour said it was a great initiative.

‘It’s certainly good for the environment and at maternity services we do actively encourage the use of water for babies.

‘The reusable ones look easy to use, you just have to wet them with water only, which is good for new-born skin.’

Many wipes are now advertised as ‘flushable’ or ‘fine to flush’, however Guernsey Water begs to differ.

Staff conducted their own experiment by submerging various wipes in jars of water for more than 700 days.

The result was that all the wipes stayed intact, and only the toilet roll disintegrated.

Guernsey Water water quality manager Margaret McGuinness said the synthetic fibres in the wipes made them too durable.

‘Toilet roll just disappears immediately almost as soon as it gets wet and gets into the system, the “fine to flush” is still there, and so is the “flushable” wipes and the baby wipes, so it’s causing us problems.

‘In the sewer these wipes tend to knot together into ropes, which then get caught on the pump propellers and stop the pumps working and we get blockages and flooding.’

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