Before you flush: Glenwood sewers take on influx of non-flushable items during COVID-19 crisis
Since Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order in March, the Glenwood Springs Water and Wastewater Department has found itself skimming out more debris than usual from the city’s sewer system.
“With the amount of disinfecting that had picked up, we were noticing a lot more debris at our wet wells,” said Mike Hoffman, Water and Wastewater Department field operations superintendent. “The wet wells are where the sewer pump stations are at and we have nine of those throughout the city.”
According to Hoffman, pre-pandemic, city employees generally skimmed wet wells on a monthly or as-needed basis. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, however, workers must perform the task weekly and sometimes more.
Ultimately, all of the debris removed from the wet wells gets transported and discarded at the South Canyon Landfill.
“We were starting to experience more backups either in residential units or on our mainlines themselves,” Hoffman said. “These wipes and non-flushable (items), what they do is they’ll gather…and ultimately block the pipe fully or partially.”
According to Hoffman, crews were routinely removing non-flushable items like disinfectant wipes, cotton balls, floss, feminine hygiene products, Q-tips, paper towels, tissues and other items.
Hoffman said the city’s pipes were also taking on an influx of household grease and asked residents to please be mindful of what they put down their drains too.
In Carbondale, Public Works Director Kevin Schorzman said he was very concerned about pipe backups during the early days of the crisis but, so far, had been pleasantly surprised.
“I have not heard from our wastewater treatment plant that we’ve been pulling any more than normal out of our bar screen,” Schorzman said.
According to Schorzman, the town’s Public Works Department had issued a few reminders to residents about what not to flush or put down the drain.
“Even if those wipes say flushable on them, they’re not flushable,” Schorzman said. “The message we put out there was ‘Think about your neighbors.'”
Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner also said, like Carbondale, the town had not had any issues with backups so far.
According to Fonner the town was actively reminding residents on its website and social media channels to be mindful of what they were discarding.
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Garfield County Public Health does not have immediate plans to run an off-site community drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic like the one now operating in Pitkin County.