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Engineering Services

Wastewater Engineering
PROJECT REPORT Industrial Pretreatment

FIELD TEST OF COMPATABILITY OF NON-WOVEN PERSONAL WIPE MATERIALS

Background: Since 2013 Vancouver staff has participated in national efforts with other wastewater utility
representatives, wipes manufacturers and representatives from INDA (the trade association representing non-woven
manufacturers) to assess adverse conditions in sewer systems caused in part or wholly by the presence of non-woven
wipes materials. During this period Vancouver staff has conducted “in-sewer” tests involving marked wipes samples
and observing their conditions treatment plant influent screens.

Summary: Three different brands of Flushable Wipes and One brand of Toilet Paper were soaked and introduced to
The City of Vancouver’s sanitary sewer system at two different locations. All products were taped, numbered, and
then soaked in room temperature tap water before being introduced to each manhole. Seven of each flushable wipe
as well as four samples of the toilet paper were placed in each manhole. The two manholes involved in this test were
similar distances away and both sewer lines were interceptors headed towards the City of Vancouver Westside
wastewater treatment plant. The team then traveled to the treatment plant screening area to observe if any wipes
were caught on the pretreatment screen. Many of the wipes appeared at the screening area and some of them were
still intact.

Project Objective and Purpose

Objective: To determine compatibility of consumer non-woven wipes material in Vancouver’s Publicly-Owned


Treatment Works (POTW), including the collection system and wastewater treatment plant.

Purpose: The purpose of this test is to determine and document compatibility of these “flushable” products in a “real
world”, or more accurately, “real community” setting – the sanitary sewer system. The term “compatibility” is to be
understood that non-food materials placed into the sanitary sewer (i.e. flushing) break down and disperse within a
lateral or quickly (i.e. less than 30 minutes) after entering a public sewer; does not cause blockages in public sewer
lines, pumps or other appurtenances; does not cause blockages in pipes at the wastewater treatment plant; does not
cause pass-through or interference with the processes at the treatment plant; does not cause the city to violate its
NPDES permit limits and conditions.

General Test Protocol Summary

For each round of tests, staff attached a 2” by 2” square of pink duct tape to each side of every Flushable Wipe and
then stapled the two pieces of tape together. Each wipe was marked with its code name and the interceptor that it
was dropped in. Seven samples of each variety of wipe were placed into each manhole. Before the wipes entered the
manhole they were soaked in 3 gallons of tap water for 30 minutes.
Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 2

For each round of tests the flushable wipes were preceded by earplugs to get a better idea of flow velocity. Time was
then started and the wipes were put in the manhole less than one minute after. The Wipes were dropped in one at a
time out of the soaking bucket.

Staff then traveled to the Westside treatment facility for the City of Vancouver and waited at the treatment plant
screens. The screens were observed for the pieces of duct tape that appeared on the screen. When the tape was
observed, the screens were stopped and the pieces were gingerly gathered using hand held grabbers. From there
they were placed on a tarp where they were lightly cleaned and laid out to demonstrate the total breakdown that
occurred in the pipe.

Staff recorded the “travel time”, and recorded the condition of each of the wipes.

Table 1 - Drop Locations

Travel Time
Distance to to WWTP
Date Location WWTP (lf) (min) Notes
South interceptor to WS plant; about 2.5 MGD
equivalent flow at time of test; wipes collected
38 (earplugs)
June 9, 2016 MH #1891 5530 at screens located upstream of influent pumps
48 (wipes)
Average velocity calculated at 115 feet per
min (1.9 fps)
West Interceptor to WS plant; about 7 MGD
equivalent flow at time of test; wipes collected
June 9, 2016 MH #1015 4300 42 (wipes) at screens located upstream of influent pumps
Average velocity calculated at 102 feet per
min (1.7 fps)
Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 3

West interceptor drop point to Westside Treatment Plant


Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 4

South interceptor drop point to Westside Treatment Plant


Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 5

Observations:

General

Earplugs dropped at the West Interceptor did not appear at the Westside influent screens.

The Code 4 samples that were dropped at the South Interceptor did not appear at the Westside influent screens.

Two loads of septage were discharged at an adjacent station and directly to the influent basin during the time when
some samples may have arrived at the screens. The septage is dark and thick, and may have “blinded” some of the
samples.

Code 4: Charmin Ultra Strong Toilet Paper

The toilet paper (6 squares folded) almost completely disappeared in the sewer test. Only the tape and remnants
around the tape were found at the screens of the Westside treatment plant. This was to prove that toilet paper has
more than enough time to break down during the tested time period.
Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 6

Code 6: Cottonelle FW

These wipes showed partial or full break down in all of its trials. Near complete breakdown occurred on wipes that
were sent through the longer and more turbulent South interceptor. Wipes sent through the West interceptor
showed partial breakdown.
Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 7

Code 8: Kirkland Signature Brand FW (Nice-pak)

These wipes showed little to no breakdown in all of the samples collected at the screen. As shown below both the
West and East interceptor did not break this product down. All samples that were collected were very prominent on
the screen during the collection process.
Personal Wipe Field Test Report
City of Vancouver, WA
June 9, 2016
Page 8

Code 15: Smart Sense Brand FW

These wipes showed inconsistencies in their ability to break down in the sewer test. While some of the wipes almost
completely broke down there were others that showed little signs of deterioration. Both interceptors seemed to have
wipes that broke down and wipes that stayed intact. The reason for this result is unknown and may be due to
variations in sewer conditions or variation in the wipes themselves.

Conclusion:

In the tests performed it was apparent that the Code 8 flushable wipes did show many signs of deterioration as most
of the wipes were found completely unbroken. The other brands of wipes showed at least partial breakdown with the
all of their samples, but they were not able to complete full breakdown with 100% of the wipes. With this amount of
time it would be desired to see complete breakdown from 100% of the products.