Call them SEAL Team No. 2.
A team of specially trained divers in South Carolina had to plunge down 90 feet through raw sewage — in pitch darkness — to unclog a giant blockage that officials say was created by so-called “flushable” toilet wipes. As the New York Post noted, the brave divers were sent by the Charleston Water System deep into the pipes at the Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Center.
The department gave updates to the public through its Twitter page, noting that the removal operation turned up a host of things that should never be flushed down a toilet — including a baseball and a large piece of metal. Officials said the majority of the blockage came from wipes that are advertised as flushable.
“As we expected, they came up with these large masses of wipes in their first two loads, with more to come,” Charleston Water tweeted. “They also found a baseball and a big piece of metal. Don’t flush stuff like this.”
The city shared some pictures of the gigantic clogs, a huge black mass that weighed hundreds of pounds. The operation to remove the clog took several trips, gradually removing the blockage and allowing the sewage to continue flowing while avoiding potentially dangerous spillovers.
— Cathlene Sareli (@cbtuck62) October 17, 2018
As NPR reported last year, many cities are dealing with the problem from flushing wipes and other foreign objects down the toilet. The city of London spent millions of dollars to clean up what was known as a “Fatberg,” a gigantic mass of congealed cooking fat that was held together by wet wipes.
Other cities have seen sewage spill over into rivers and other waterways because of the blockages caused by these wet wipes. It has led to some other disgusting removal operations like the one that took place in Charleston, while others are looking to take action against companies claiming that these wet wipes are safe to be flushed.
The makers of wet wipes have claimed that their products go through rigorous testing to make sure they are safe for sewers, but the issue is contentious. As NPR reported, wet wipe creator Kimberly-Clark even sued Washington, D.C., after the district created its own stricter standards for what can be flushed down the toilet, forcing the company to create special labeling just for Washington.
In Charleston, the water department is trying to convince people to stop flushing these wipes down the toilet, pleading with them to only flush down “No. 1, No. 2, and toilet paper.”