Campus News

Assistant professor shares how wipes are wreaking havoc on US sewer systems

Gary Hawkins, a water resource management assistant professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was recently quoted in a Bloomberg article about the devastating effects of flushing wipes down the toilet.

Sewer backups are up 50% and experts say that’s because Americans often flush wipes, which don’t break down in water like toilet paper does.

The term “fatberg” originated in the U.K. to define the masses of wipes and congealed cooking fat that build up in sewage systems. In London, a 40-metric ton specimen was estimated to be the size of a double-decker bus. Since the clogs happen later on, most people don’t know about them. This lack of awareness—paired with increased wipes sales during the COVID pandemic—has made the problem worse, said Hawkins.

“It’s one of those out of sight, out of mind type things,” he said.

The article continued to detail the importance of raising awareness around the impact of flushed wipes.