Officials with local water departments are advising the public to avoid flushing disinfectant wipes into toilets.

Many people have been using the wipes to help protect themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic, but that can cause issues.

"They are so slow to degrade they can collect up and cause problems in the system," Florence Gas and Water Department Manager Mike Doyle said.

He said some manufacturers advertise wipes as flushable. "That's not exactly true."

In addition, if wipes clog a line, the ensuing problem would more than likely be the owner's problem to resolve, Doyle said.

"It's probably going to stop up their line first," he said. "They would have to get a plumber and that could get very expensive."

Sheffield Gas, Water and Wastewater Department Manager Tommy Barnes advises customers not to flush any type of disinfectant wipes.

“Sanitary wipes do give us trouble, particularly at the Cox Boulevard lift station," Barnes said.

He said the utility has made changes to its pumps so they would be able to pass larger pieces of debris.

Barnes said the wastewater department has four wastewater lift stations they must maintain. He said they were cleaned about two weeks ago.

"We do quarterly cleaning or vacuuming of those areas where we have problems," he said. "At this time, we're not experiencing any problems with them."

Muscle Shoals Water Board Manager James Vance agreed disinfectant wipes, even those advertised as "flushable" wipes, should not be flushed.

"In times past, we've had trouble in our pumping stations with what was marketed as flushable wipes," Vance said. "They don't really break down and dissolve like toilet paper."

The wipes can wrap around equipment and pump impellers, he said.

He also warned against customers pouring cooking oil, fats or grease into their toilets because that also can clog lines.

Vance said so far his system has not experienced any clogged lines due to wipes being flushed.

Doyle said officials continue to try to get the word out that water systems are in good shape.

"We're running just like we've always run," he said. "Our employees are used to dealing with extreme conditions and circumstances. The water supply is good and it's disinfected like it always is."

While the increase in hand washing likely means additional running of sink water, Doyle said he expects the overall demand to decrease because businesses are not operating at their ordinary level, if at all.

"It's probably going to affect our gas revenues some, as well, because places are not doing the heavy cooking and using the gas hot water like they usually do," he said. "We don't have those numbers in yet. That's just my feeling." or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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