This hurricane season, the City of Tampa is urging residents to keep leftover fat, oil, grease, and especially wet wipes out of the drain.
At a wastewater plant in Tampa, a technician removes a blob of grey debris from a bar screen.
Bar screens are filters that keep materials such as wipes, rags, and sand from entering the primary wastewater treatment process.
Events like tropical storms and hurricanes cause higher-than-usual wastewater flows, and at times, wastewater overflow. This leads to plugged pipes or public health risks for residents and the environment.
Flushing non-biodegradable items, even so-called “flushable” wet wipes, contributes to the problem.
Eric Weiss is the director of Wastewater for the City of Tampa. He says the wipes accumulate in pipes and lead to a blockage, called a fatberg. He says these can cause sewage overflows and result in expensive repairs.
The city encourages people to dispose of wet wipes in the trash. They also encourage people to not pour grease down the sink or toilet, and report sewer overflows to the city.