Baby wipes in sewer pipes are a threat to public and environmental health and to the sustainability of shared infrastructure. Wipes don’t breakdown in water like toilet paper, not even those labelled “flushable.” Oregon’s Clackamas County Water Environment Services department (WES) provides water resource recovery and watershed protection services to over 165,000 customers in urbanizing northern Clackamas County. WES manages and operates five wastewater treatment facilities and 22 pump stations where convenience wipes clog pipes and pumps that threaten public and environmental health due to the increased risk of sanitary sewer overflows.
To battle the issue, WES collaborated with local and national partners to create the campaign, Keep the Wipes Out! The outreach educates the public, especially new parents, about sewage backups caused by the unnecessary flushing of wipes and other clog-inducing products down the toilet.
Keep the Wipes Out! protects water quality by educating the community about behaviors that impact watershed health, water quality, and sustainable infrastructure. The development of the campaign also promotes local and national intergovernmental cooperation and coordination in addressing a shared problem in urbanized areas nationally and globally.
WES’ Keep the Wipes Out! received NACWA’s 2019 National Environmental Achievement Award in the Public Information & Education (Educational Program) category.