Canal Winchester has spent approximately $25,000 in the past year for repairs and other costs because inappropriate materials have been flushed down local toilets.

Canal Winchester has spent approximately $25,000 in the past year for repairs and other costs because inappropriate materials have been flushed down local toilets.

Water reclamation manager Steve Smith said the entire amount was spent on repairs to one pump station.

Typically, he said, the village spends less than $25,000 per year on all 11 stations put together.

Smith has seen it all -- sure, there's an occasional toy flushed by a child, or a wallet -- but he said so-called "flushable wipes" are a growing problem.

"In reality, they're not as biodegradable as toilet paper," Smith said.

The $25,000 in repairs and other costs was caused by a new business disposing of what were believed to be flushable wipes. Smith said once the source of the problem was identified, it was discussed with the business and quickly resolved.

The village is covering those repair costs, according to Smith.

"They didn't do it maliciously," he said. "They were very cooperative and very nice about taking care of the problem."

In general, the village can discontinue service and seek reimbursement for damages, Smith said.

He said Canal Winchester isn't out to punish "offenders," but instead aims to increase awareness and encourage compliance.

Among the items Smith said should not be flushed are medications, tampon applicators, condoms, underwear, dish towels and mop strings.

"We could probably double the life of everything we've got if we could get people to stop flushing inappropriate items," he said.

Canal Winchester provides sewer services to the Fox Glen and Sycamore Creek developments in Pickerington. Smith said residents in those developments dump a lot of cooking grease, which should instead be captured in a can and discarded in the trash.

"If we vacuum a Canal Winchester lift station once per year, we'll need to do those two quarterly due to the grease build-up," he said. "Strangely, the grease build-up in those two areas is worse even than our restaurant row on Gender Road."

Smith said he's working with Pickerington representatives to increase awareness among those residents of the problems associated with dumping grease down the drain.

Residents are responsible for problems that their flushing of inappropriate items causes to their properties or their neighbor's properties, according to the village's fall 2009 newsletter.

"It's not a pretty sight to see a basement filled with sewage," Smith said. "I can't stress how important it is for people to take care of their sewers. It's for their own good."