Plumbing Tip: What NOT to Flush
By now, we’re sure you’ve read the headlines about the damage that “flushable” wipes are creating. Towns and cities across the US are facing large repairs because these wipes are being flushed down toilets and do NOT break down. They gunk up the sewer treatment plants and create a huge mess. In residential homes, they are clogging up septic systems and getting stuck in pipes, creating back ups. We receive a lot of calls because toilets will not flush. When we snake the drain, it is often covered in gobs of these wipes. In short, even though “flushable” wipes are marketed as such, do NOT flush them.
It may be tempting to flush expired soups, stews or veggie peels into the toilet, since they don’t fit down your kitchen sink drain. But just because they fit, doesn’t mean they should be flushed. Flushing food down the toilet is one of the other main causes of a clogged toilet. Please, please dump any food waste into your garbage. If you’d like an alternative to throwing food into the trash, consider creating a compost pile.
Expired or unused medications won’t cause a clog or a back up in your toilet. However, when you flush them, the remnants can show up in the public drinking supply. While there isn’t yet proof that people are being directly harmed, there is a negative environmental impact. According to this Harvard Medical School article:
“Sewage treatment plants are not currently designed to remove pharmaceuticals from water. Nor are the facilities that treat water to make it drinkable. Yet a certain amount of pharmaceutical contamination is removed when water gets treated for other purposes. For example, some research shows that conventional treatment methods result in a 90% decrease in the amount of ibuprofen and naproxen in the water discharged from sewage treatment plants. On the other hand, treatment doesn’t seem to have much effect on the levels of drugs such as carbamazepine and diclofenac (a pain reliever).
Some aspects of sewage treatment may remove pharmaceuticals from the water, but as a result, concentrations in sludge increase. Some of that sludge is used as fertilizer, so the pharmaceuticals are getting into the environment in another way.”
We suggest putting old medications into used kitty litter or coffee grounds, then disposing it into the trash. Even better, many local police departments have a box where you can dispose of expired or unused medications. Some local pharmacies also have ‘take back’ programs.