What Actually Makes Something Flushable?

There is a fair amount of confusion about what makes a product flushable. Manufacturers market wipes and hygiene products as safe for sewer and septic systems. However, the lack of a clear definition leads to expensive problems at wastewater facilities.

Differing Definitions of Flushable

For many people, an item that is safe to flush is anything that can fit down a toilet’s plumbing. This understanding leads to non-biodegradable products making their way into the sewer system. Many of these items are removed in the primary filtering and treatment process, but they can also serve as building blocks for sewer clogs.

Manufacturers say that a consumer can safely flush a product if it breaks down in water by 60% in an hour. Unfortunately, this breakdown rate leaves plenty of solid material that can create clogs or gum up the works at a water treatment plant.

The International Water Services Flushability Group has a much stricter standard. Items labeled as safe for flushing should break down by 95% half an hour after contact with water. This rate allows products like toilet paper to travel through sewer systems without any issues.

The Impact of Clogs on a Sewer System

Cities around the world spend millions of dollars dealing with clogged sewer lines and sluggish wastewater plant machinery. Often, the only way to handle the problem is to manually break up the clogs and clear the way for sufficient effluent flow. The extra weight of a layer of wipes puts strain on the machinery and will shorten its life. All of these factors increase the cost of wastewater management.

To combat this issue, some cities pay for marketing campaigns to educate residents about safe flushing practices. However, it is difficult to dissuade people from enjoying the convenience of items that are supposedly safe.

Non-flushable Items and Flow Rate

Fatbergs are becoming a chronic problem in major metropolitan centers. These collections of wipes and other non-flushable items are bound together with congealed cooking fat. As they grow, they will slow the flow rate in sewer lines before they cause a complete blockage.

The rate of water flow in a sewer system varies throughout the day. In most residential areas, the flow is highest in the morning and evening when residents are home. It decreases during the night when most people are sleeping.

When a blockage begins to form, wastewater managers can expect a decrease in the average flow time for a metered area. The rate will continue to fall as the blockage grows larger. SCADA software can send an alert before this becomes a critical issue.

How SCADA Software Can Prevent Problems

Remote monitoring of changes in the average flow time is one way to prevent unexpected blockages. These clogs build over time. Without a way to observe fluctuations in readings like water pressure and effluent flow, the first sign of an issue may be unsanitary water backups or sewer line breaks.

A supervisory control and data acquisition system collects data from system sensors for observation and analysis. The SCADA system provides a real-time overview of what is happening throughout the system. It can send alerts when there are dangerous conditions like significant drops in flow rate. The control part of the system also allows administrators to program automatic responses that can prevent damage.

Looking at SCADA information over time will also allow operators to pinpoint potential clogs before they disrupt the system. This information will lower operating costs and minimize disruptions that affect customers.

Expert Remote Monitoring Solutions

High Tide Technologies specializes in SCADA systems for municipal water collection, distribution and treatment systems. Our cloud-based platform gives operators the ability to access information and control parts of the system while in the field. A remote SCADA solution will lead to faster response times and improved system efficiency. For more information about our comprehensive SCADA systems, contact us today.