‘Flushable’ Wipes Blamed for Purcellville Sewer Spill

Improperly disposed wipes were found to have been the cause of a sanitary sewer overflow at a manhole adjacent to the town’s East End Pump Station last night.

About 5 p.m.  Thursday, the town was notified by Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management that it had received a call from a town resident who reported a hazardous waste spill.

Fire-Rescue representatives who arrived at the scene found that a sanitary sewer overflow had occurred at a manhole adjacent to the town’s East End Pump Station.

The fire department deployed booms to contain the flow, and town staff cleared the blockage in less than half an hour. Authorities determined that less than 1,000 gallons had left the manhole.

Unfortunately, small quantities of liquid, known as supernatant, spilled into the adjacent creek, although no solids were observed. Town staff contacted the Department of Environmental Quality last night and will continue to work with the agency on any required public notices.

The cause of the overflow was determined to be a “large mass of wipes and other debris” that had clogged the grinder pump, which in turn created the backup. When staff conducted its routine inspection of the facility earlier Thursday, all equipment was clear and functioning correctly.

According to Scott House, wastewater superintendent at the Basham Simms wastewater plant, flushable wipes have become a serious issue in the water reclamation industry. House said it is vitally important that residents and business owners understand the impacts of flushing improper materials down drains and toilets—which can negatively impact the town.

In a statement, House said, “the following materials should NEVER be flushed down a toilet:”

Disinfecting/cleaning wipes, baby wipes, diapers, paper towels, rags, towels and washcloths, towelettes, kitty litter, needles, syringes and other medical waste, toilet seat covers, feminine hygiene products, dental floss, mop/cleaning brush refills, medications, and fats, oils and grease.

“Besides clogging the town’s infrastructure, improperly disposed waste can also clog a homeowner’s or business owner’s pipes, which can cause damage and is the responsibility of the property owner to fix and clean up,” House warned.

For more information, contact House at shouse@purcellvilleva.gov or 540-338-4945.




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