WLSSD pleads: 'Don't flush wipes or toilet paper alternatives'

Urgent message Friday aims to avoid causing sewer backups.

Wipes retrieved from a Western Lake Superior Sanitary District pump. (WLSSD photo)

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District officials warned residents and businesses Friday about the hazards of flushing any products except toilet paper down toilets. Wipes, paper towel, facial tissue and other paper products are not flushable and must be disposed of in the trash, WLSSD said in a news release.

“Toilet tissue has been in limited supply in local stores and we’ve heard some folks have substituted paper towel, facial tissue, wipes, napkins, and more,” Al Parrella, WLSSD’s Manager of Operations and Maintenance, said. “Wipes bind with fats, oils and grease and can wreak havoc on wastewater treatment pumping stations, clog local sewer systems and harm your home’s plumbing.”

Wipes are not flushable even if the packaging says so, continued Parrella.

“While they might go down the drain, they do not break up like toilet paper," he said. "They can cause costly sewer backups into your home, and sewer blockages and overflows. Overflows would be tough to deal with as we are implementing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

WLSSD reminds residents that no forms of wipes are flushable:


  • Baby wipes are not flushable,
  • Paper towels are not flushable,
  • Tissues are not flushable,
  • Disinfecting wipes are not flushable.

“The solution is easy,” Parrella said. “Just throw them in the trash can.”

WLSSD aims to continue to "ensure safe, responsible operations during the nation’s efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19," it said. WLSSD’s regional wastewater treatment plant treats nearly 40 million gallons of wastewater every day. WLSSD operates 75 miles of interceptor sewer and 17 pumping stations in its 530-square mile service area.

“We are all in this together,” Marianne Bohren, WLSSD executive director, said. “Our entire community must take all actions necessary to protect public health in the Northland and slow the spread of COVID-19. We ask our community members pay extra attention to what they are using and flushing and remind you not to flush anything other than toilet paper.”

Related Topics: LAKE SUPERIOR
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