Disgusting reason you should think before you flush

DISGUSTING 'fatbergs' and other blockages in Gold Coast and Tweed sewerage systems are costing ratepayers millions a year.

Gold Coast City Council and Tweed Shire Council cleared hundreds of costly blockages last year, largely caused by wet wipes and other non-degradable items being flushed down the toilet and binding together.

Items of concern include sanitary products, nappies, cloths and rags, syringes, needles, cotton buds, condoms, fats and oils.

A blockage cleared by Gold Coast City Council.
A blockage cleared by Gold Coast City Council.

The Gold Coast recorded 764 blockages in 2020 and 525 in 2019 - a 45.5 per cent increase. Tweed recorded 544 blockages last year and 741 the year prior - a 26.5 per cent decrease.

Clearing blockages costs Gold Coast ratepayers $1-1.5 million each year.

Tweed council has not outlined annual costs, but said every single blockage costed "thousands of dollars to clear".

A Gold Coast city council spokeswoman said: "While the City's comprehensive planned maintenance and renewals program of work has reduced the number of sewerage blockages on the City's mains, blockages at customer property connection points continue to rise due to non biodegradable items being disposed to the sewerage network.

"Our network can become overloaded or blocked for a number of reasons such as wet wipes, tree roots, fats, oils and foreign matter listed above," she said.

Tweed Shire Council pump assistant Craig Simpkins works to remove a mass of wet wipes and rags at Banora Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Tweed Shire Council pump assistant Craig Simpkins works to remove a mass of wet wipes and rags at Banora Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.


"Residents may not realise that 'flushable wipes' do not break down in the sewerage system. They may flush away from view but are not biodegradable like toilet paper.

"Wipes clump together and cause significant blockages, which can result in a sewage overflow and possibly cause damage to pumps."


The spokeswoman warned blockages could cause environmental damage to creeks and waterways and led to sewage overflows at homes and businesses.

"Regardless of what the packaging says, please always bin your wipes," she said.

Tweed council water and wastewater manager Brie Jowett warned raw sewage backups also placed the public at risk.

A 14-tonne fatberg removed from NSW Hunter Region’s Morpeth Water Treatment Plant in 2019.
A 14-tonne fatberg removed from NSW Hunter Region’s Morpeth Water Treatment Plant in 2019.

She was pleased the Tweed recorded a drop in blockages between 2019-20, while many Australian council areas noticed more blockages, perhaps due to people working from home.

"In the workplace, toilet cubicles are fitted with bins for unflushables and those bins are cleared and cleaned regularly. In the home, that may not be the case," Mrs Jowett said.

"While 544 blockages is still far too many at more than 10 every week, the figure has dropped by more than 25 per cent on the previous year when 741 blockages were recorded."

Tweed council has had a range of wet wipes in jars of water for more than three years and despite being labelled flushable or biodegradable, they are still intact.

A massive fatberg being removed in Sydney last year.
A massive fatberg being removed in Sydney last year.

"Anyone who visits a Council office can see for themselves that only toilet paper disintegrates," Mrs Jowett said.

"Only pee, poo, puke and paper should be flushed. Everything else needs to be binned."



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