Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

235 Promenade Street | Providence, RI 02908 | 401.222.4700 | www.dem.ri.gov | @RhodeIslandDEM






Flushing cleaning wipes causes clogs and can lead to overflows

in wastewater collection systems  


PROVIDENCE – With new reports of damaged pump stations and overwhelmed screening facilities in Rhode Island wastewater collection and treatment systems, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is once again urging all Rhode Islanders to refrain from flushing disinfectant wipes – including those labeled “flushable” – and instead, to dispose of them in the trash.  DEM is also asking retailers to post signs alerting customers to not flush various wipes, even if the product is labeled as “flushable.”


“Proper functioning of our wastewater treatment system is critical to protecting public health by preventing viruses and bacteria from getting into your homes, onto roadways and into our waterways,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Among the other protective measures needed at this time, Rhode Islanders need to be vigilant about what they do and don’t flush!”


A pump removed from the Congdon Street pump station in Narragansett yesterday was clogged with wipes and paper towels.


This week, the Town of Narragansett reported a failure of two pumps at one of the town’s sewer pumping stations. The damage resulted from a buildup of wipes clogging the inner core of both pumps. While the swift action of town wastewater staff prevented a release of sewage to the environment, the cost of responding to the failure, setting up temporary bypass systems, and eventual repairs is estimated at $7,300.


Earlier in the week, wastewater crews in the Town of Burrillville reported similar buildups of wipes in their collection systems.


Whether your home or business is connected to the public sewer system or has an onsite wastewater treatment system, you should never flush any type of wipes, including baby wipes and those labeled flushable, down the toilet.  Instead, you should place these products in the trash for proper disposal.


In addition to causing clogs and wastewater collection system overflows, flushing wipes can also lead to sewer back-ups in basements and damage wastewater treatment equipment. Although some of these products may be labeled as flushable, most wipes are made with fine plastic mesh that does not break down in water as toilet paper does.  These wipes are clogging and damaging expensive wastewater pumps and sewer lines in Rhode Island and across the nation.


At a time when we’re washing our hands and wiping down surfaces more frequently, DEM is strongly urging citizens and businesses to do their part and help avoid sewer system damage and overflows by disposing of these wipes in the trash rather than flushing them away.


According to the Water Environment Association, the following items should NEVER be flushed: 

Baby wipes and diapers

● Rags and towels

● Cotton swabs

● Syringes

● Candy and other food wrappers

● Clothing labels

● Cleaning sponges

● Toys

● Plastic items of any kind

● Aquarium gravel or kitty litter

● Rubber items such as latex gloves

● Cigarette butts

● Sanitary napkins

● Hair

● Underwear

● Disposable toilet brushes


For more information, visit the Water Environment Federation website at https://www.wef.org/resources/for-the-public/public-information/fact-sheets/ and click on "It's a Toilet, Not a Trash Can!" in the left-hand menu.


For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.






As the coronavirus outbreak grows, the Army Corps of Engineers is handling hundreds of requests for makeshift military hospitals around the U.S. During a Pentagon briefing, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite said the Corps is working closely with governors and state-and-local officials on "site assessments." Existing buildings can be transformed into makeshift hospitals, including hotels.       The death toll from the coronavirus in New York is surpassing that of 9-11. COVID-19 has killed more New Yorkers than those who died in the World Trade Center in 2001, and the death toll from the disease is expected to keep rising.       Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley [[ MILL-ee ]] says he supports the acting Secretary of Navy in his decision to remove the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. General Milley says when any secretary of one of the branches of the military loses confidence in a subordinate, it's time for that person to go. Navy Captain Brett Crozier was removed from his position aboard the Roosevelt after a letter he wrote to the Pentagon was leaked to the media.       A second CNN anchor has tested positive for the coronavirus. Brooke Baldwin posted an Instagram note saying it came on suddenly with chills, aches and a fever. CNN anchor Chris Cuomo announced this week that he, too, tested positive for the coronavirus.       Under Armour is laying off 67-hundred workers temporarily due to low sales during the coronavirus pandemic. The series of cuts will begin on April 12th at stores and distribution centers across the U.S. CEO and President Patrik Frisk said the "unanticipated shock to our business has been acute, forcing us to make difficult decisions."       The 2020 CMT Music Awards are being rescheduled for October 14th because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Nashville country music show was originally set for June 3rd. June's CMA fest was also cancelled and will return in 2021.