Winona Lake Utility Superintendent urges ‘No Wipes In Pipes’

When Winona Lake residents put diapers, rags or feminine hygiene products down the toilet, they’re costing the town thousands of dollars in repairs.

Utility Superintendent Tom Miller on Tuesday showed the town council a photo of those items wrapped around an impeller on a sanitary sewer pump.

“As you can see … it’s kind of wrapped around the impeller and it burns the pumps up,” he said pointing at the photo.

Miller said the sanitary sewer department had three pumps burn up in one weekend because of people putting the wrong things down the toilet.

Each pump costs $5,600 for a new one, but $4,300 to rebuild one. “But why would you rebuild one?” he said. To replace three pumps costs $16,800, and that’s in just one weekend.

“And when we have high water and rain, that’s a problem. Now you’re running on one pump and it gets a little hairy. We haven’t put any sewage on the ground,” he said.

Miller passed out a flyer with “No Wipes Down the Pipes” across the top. It says, “Even if a product says it is ‘flushable, unless it is toilet paper, it should not be flushed!”

Items that should not be flushed include diapers (including cloth, cotton, disposable or plastic); flushable, disposable, cleaning or baby wipes; paper towels, cloth towels or any type of rag; feminine hygiene products; and facial tissues. These items should go in a trash can.

The flyer also reads, “Putting these items down toilets may plug sewers and cause raw sewage to back up into YOUR HOME.”

Fines and even the elimination of service are possible for those who put such items into the sewers, according to the town’s sewer use ordinance.

Miller also reported that he’s had issues with the new guardrail on the greenway over the past year.

“It’s eroded. The whole stretch of it is eroded to the point where we could potentially lose that fence,” he said.

His proposal is to build up the back side, use larger stones for the foundation and put in additional drainage.

He received one quote for $7,326 for the project, and is seeking a second quote, but asked the council to approve the work not to exceed the $7,326 and then he’ll go with the best price to get it fixed as soon as possible.