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America’s Obsession With Wipes Is Tearing Up Sewer Systems

Across the U.S., cities and towns are being forced to throw more money at solving blockages as consumers buy (and flush) more wipes than ever. 

Undissolved wipes are pulled from the water at a wastewater treatment facility in New York in 2019. The so-called fatberg problem has only gotten worse in recent months.

Undissolved wipes are pulled from the water at a wastewater treatment facility in New York in 2019. The so-called fatberg problem has only gotten worse in recent months.

Photographer: David 'Dee' Delgado/Bloomberg

Even before the pandemic, Americans were already flushing far too many wipes into the sewer system. After a year of staying at home, the pipe-clogging problem has gotten worse.

Just ask Larry Hare, who says he immediately observed the change from his vantage point as the manager at a wastewater reclamation facility in Des Moines, Iowa.