Pitt Meadows residents are getting toilet trained.
Larina Lopez of Metro Vancouver explained to council Tuesday how the city, over the coming weeks, will be used for a public education pilot project, to see if the bureaucrats can convince people to stop flushing wet wipes down their toilets.
Lopez explained that even baby wipes that say “flushable” on the package clog sewer lines, system pumps, even residential pipes.
“They’re becoming a real problem in our sewer system,” she said. “Many wipes are labelled flushable, but in actual practice do not break down in the waste water system.”
They’re a drain on resources. Already this year Metro has spent approximately $100,000 dealing with sewer clogging caused by wipes. They have to turn off the sewer pumps, and in many cases unclog drains by hand.
Some years, the cost in Metro has been $200,000 for unclogging sewers, and Canada-wide, wipes cost municipalities an estimated $250 million per year.
In getting out its new no-wipes message, Metro is taking on a formidable challenge. Baby wipes aren’t the only offenders. The same type of wet wipes are used for household cleaning, makeup removal and personal hygiene. Women are the main users. It’s a global $13.2 billion market that is growing by approximately seven per cent annually.
The pilot project is about changing behaviour, said Lopez.
The Baynes Road Sewage Pump Station has a defined catchment, where staff can measure the number of wipes in the system before and after the project.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker, vice-chair of Metro’s utilities committee, volunteered the city for the pilot.
The plan is to use humor in an “adult toilet training” campaign, that will be carried on posters and decals in public women’s washrooms around Pitt Meadows, at places including restaurants, pubs, fitness centres and golf clubs.
There will also be online ads, and a social media campaign centred around the www.neverflushwipes.ca web page.
There will be ads in local papers and other media, and a roving pink Porta Potty with decals and messaging that will be placed at events and locations where the public can use it around town.
“We have to bring the bathroom to them,” said Lopez, and it was parked outside Pitt Meadows City Hall on Tuesday night.
Metro will measure the number of wipes before during and after the eight-week project, to evaluate success.
Information gathered in the Pitt Meadows pilot program will be used to inform plans for a region-wide campaign in early 2016.