When you flush wipes, divers have 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 impact wipes have on sewer pipes.

They said baby wipes clogged a series of large pumps at their “Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant” on Thursday, Oct. 11, and they then had to work 24/7 to get them out. Meanwhile, 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. 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.

Back in 2013, we told you about “flushable” wipes causing problems in Thiensville.

The director of public works said the problem had gotten so bad, his staff had to clean screens at the sewer system lift station every single day to stop the wipes from reaching the pipes.

“They’re labeled flushable because they do, indeed flush, but they don’t break down in the same manner as toilet paper. It’s a messy, unpleasant job that can take about an hour,” said Andy LaFond.

Without the process, LaFond said the sewer pumps would shut down and there would be a system-wide failure.

Crews were dealing with a similar problem in Waukesha — where officials said staff was “regularly unclogging mounds of rags and wipes from pumps at considerable expense.”