Innovations can lead to costly headaches

09/24/2013 10:54 AM

09/24/2013 7:13 PM

Developers of new products should know that what they gin up has to conform with existing systems otherwise society will end up with a mess on its hands.

That old saw wasn’t followed by the makers of heavily advertised “flushable cleansing cloths.” The premoistened towlettes are creating sewer system headaches nationwide and in other developed countries.

People use and flush the cleansing clothes down toilets, The Associated Press reports. But the cloths don’t deteriorate like toilet paper does.

They become hung up in sewer pipes leading from homes, businesses and apartment buildings. Often they get caught in tree roots that infiltrate the old pipes resulting in unforgivable clogs that back up sewage into buildings or damage wastewater treatment facilities.

The problem is big and growing as the $6 billion a year towlette industry picks up more buyers, increasing 5 percent a year since 2007. The industry fad keeps plumbers busy, costing property owners hundreds of dollars every time drains must be cleared or sometimes dug up and replaced.

Such jobs are no fun for cities either, where costs can be millions of dollars.


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