City of Carlsbad Spreads the Message: Don’t Believe the Hype About Using Wipes

March 15, 2017

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The City of Carlsbad, Calif., educates the community about the problems wipes can cause for wastewater infrastructure through a Wipes Clog Pipes video series. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

The City of Carlsbad, Calif., educates the community about the problems wipes can cause for wastewater infrastructure through a Wipes Clog Pipes video series. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

When wastewater treatment professionals noticed an increase in clogged pipes, the City of Carlsbad, Calif., decided to do something about it. City officials released the Wipes Clog Pipes video series to educate the community about the problems wipes can cause for infrastructure.

“The goal of our campaign was to inform residents that disposable wipes, even those labeled ‘flushable,’ can cause problems with sewer lines,” said Susanne Bankhead, community relations manager for the City of Carlsbad. “Our hope is that by increasing awareness of the issue, residents will avoid costly damage to their properties and our local sewer system.”

The videos show how wipes can accumulate and clog pipes while toilet paper disintegrates. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

The videos show how wipes can accumulate and clog pipes while toilet paper disintegrates. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

The videos in the series warn the community to “not believe the hype” of using wipes, even those labeled as flushable. They show the differences between toilet paper and wipes and encourage residents to not use wipes, Bankhead said.

“The video series has been a success,” Bankhead said. Since being shared through the city’s social media accounts as well as through advertisements on Facebook and YouTube, at press time the videos had been viewed 5699 times on YouTube, had been shared with the city’s 11,000 followers on Twitter, and had reached more than 20,000 people with 17,100 views, 79 likes, and 19 shares on Facebook.

The videos are part of a campaign to educate about the problems nonflushable items can cause for local infrastructure. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

The videos are part of a campaign to educate about the problems nonflushable items can cause for local infrastructure. Photo courtesy of the City of Carlsbad.

The videos are the cornerstone for a larger communications campaign launched in the fall. The campaign includes updates to the city’s website such as a Wipes Clog Pipes webpage and a Clog Prevention webpage, newsletter stories, and outreach efforts through social media and traditional channels. Wastewater staff plan to continue spreading the “wipes clog pipes” message through a pilot program of vehicle wraps this spring, Bankhead said.

Repairing the wastewater treatment system can cost anywhere from $2000 to $20,000. Removing wipes from these systems can help residents and the city avoid these costs, the website says.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

WEF Highlights Showcases Flushables Outreach Efforts

As the nondispersibles issue continues to grow, utilities are turning to humor and lighthearted messages to educate the public. In the footsteps of the Singing Sewermen from Thames Water (London), utilities are creating unique and humorous public service announcements (PSAs) and campaigns to educate the public about what can and cannot go down the drain or toilet.

Find WEF Highlights articles featuring these efforts by searching for the keyword FlushablePSA. Have a unique flushable PSA to share? Send it to Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights editor, at jfulcher@wef.org.

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