JUNEAU -- If it's not human waste or toilet paper, don't flush it.
The same goes for products that are marked "flushable." They're not.
That's the message from Juneau's Water/Wastewater Superintendent Tim Gassner.
"If the products make it to us, they get caught up in our pumps, which causes maintenance problems for us," Gassner said.
His comments come on the heels of Juneau Alderman Cheryl Braun, who said during Tuesday's common council meeting, a recent sewer maintenance problem uncovered a large amount of adult diapers, which directly affects waste utility costs.
Braun said the city sewers are not designed to handle the load and asked those responsible to dispose of the adult diapers in their garbage. She said the removal procedure calls for the lifting of the station and a thorough cleaning of the grinders that are designed to destroy the city's waste.
"That costs some municipalities a lot of money to unclog pipes and pumps and to replace and upgrade machinery," Gassner said.
He said wet wipes are blamed for creating clogs and backups in sewer systems.
While the pre-moistened toilettes are often advertised as flushable, he said they aren't breaking down as they run their course through the sewer system.
"Turns out, the only things residents are supposed to flush is human waste and toilet paper," he said. "That's it. No facial tissues, no feminine products and no flushable diapers or wipes -- none of it," Gassner said. "If you flush items down the toilet that don't belong there, you are inviting clogs and overflows. Even products labeled as 'flushable' do not decompose in the sewer system and can contribute to clogging."
Gassner said the city has already completed mailings to residents on what can be flushed.
"The mailings worked for a little bit, but it seems some residents went back to flushing items that shouldn't be placed in the toilet," he said. "It's a big problem for us. Unfortunately, it increases the cost if the items are not biodegradable."
He said sometimes the "stuff" will get stuck in the sewer lines and need extraction, which is expensive.
"Treat the system as if you were living in the country," he said. "Toilet paper will break down, but the other stuff just won't break up."
In other business, Juneau Common Council members heard from Juneau Police Chief David Beal who said the creation of an ordinance allowing off-road vehicles on the city streets is one for consideration and possible passage.
"It's definitely good for the city to promote this and get people to come in the city and spend some of their money at our establishments like the gas station, store and restaurants," Beal said. "We would open it up to all of the city streets rather than having a trail because it is easier to regulate."
He also said it would mean less signage for the city.
"There are already laws on the books that regulate off-road vehicles," Beal said. "I see this as a good thing for the community as a whole."
The second reading of this ordinance is scheduled for next month's council meeting. If the ordinance is passed, it could go into effect April 18.