- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - Toys, cellphones, wedding rings. Spartanburg Water employees have found these and other items amid sewage.

“I can’t imagine why anybody would want to flush money - that or rings . It really confuses me,” said Lance Johnson with Spartanburg Water.

Johnson is reclaimed water treatment lead operator for the utility.

He said 11 million gallons of wastewater are treated each day at Spartanburg Water’s wastewater facility on Southport Road.

Before modern equipment removed items from the wastewater stream, workers raked through sewage and made interesting finds.



They found numerous children’s toys.

Spartanburg Water Communications Manager Chad Lawson said hundreds of California Raisins figures used for a Hardee’s promotion were found in the wastewater in the 1980s.

Wedding and engagement rings were in the mix as well.

“They also found a lot of money. Why someone would want to flush that, I have no idea,” Johnson said.

Johnson estimates that eight to 10 tons of foreign objects removed from wastewater are dumped each month in the landfill.

Objects removed in the screening process are transported to a trash bin. It was recently filled with wet wipes used to sanitize items, as well as flushable wipes. But the wipes, Spartanburg Water employees say, cause a strain on infrastructure.

Johnson said people assume it’s ok to flush the wipes. It’s not. He said the material is much heavier and more durable than toilet paper.

“It really can create havoc on a wastewater treatment collection system and also the treatment system, too,” Johnson said.

Spartanburg Water employees pull at least six pumps per week for maintenance due to wet wipes. Pulling a pump involves removing and cleaning it to get rid of wet wipes entangled in it. The task keeps maintenance workers from attending to other jobs.

Feminine hygiene products, condoms and other items also damage pumps and cause wear and tear on infrastructure.

Johnson said “foreign materials” create added costs due to wear and tear on equipment, damaged pumps, maintenance and hauling costs.

Another issue is fats, oils and grease poured down drains.

Johnson said buildup in pipes can cause a line stoppage over time.

“That can be very costly also for us to send crews out and actually have to dig up the ground, replace all that pipe,” Johnson said.

Spartanburg Water crews are called out 10 to 20 times per week for line stoppage maintenance.

Johnson offered tips on disposing of cooking oils: After the oil cools, pour it into a trash can filled with absorbent material, such as paper towels. Johnson said another disposal technique is to pour the oil into a container and place it in the freezer until the oil solidifies and can be thrown in the trash in order to keep it out of the sewer system.

“The only thing to flush down the toilet is human waste and toilet paper,” Lawson said. Some people, he said, have termed it “The three P’s: pee, poop and paper.”

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Follow Kim Kimzey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KimKimzeySHJ

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Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/

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