April 01, 2015"Oops."
Such a simple, little phrase, but, if you're a parent, those words can fill you with a sense of dread, especially when they come from the bathroom and have been uttered by your toddler and are followed by a splash.
Well, you're not alone; there are some people around Milltown who also would prefer not to hear that tiny phrase. Town manager Justin Barnes is one.
Here's why: When you use your toilet, shower, washing machine or dishwasher, the wastewater leaves your home through pipes that connect to the town sewer system.
"We're working really hard to keep the system functioning for everyone," Barnes said, "but we have to use some common sense."
Many materials that are frequently flushed or poured down the drain can harm the pipes that connect the system to your home as well as the connection to the town sewer system.
"The basic issue that we're having is with people flushing diapers and wet-wipes," Barnes said. "Those things don't break down like toilet paper does."
He said that diapers (both those for children and adults) should never go down the toilet and wet wipes, while often labeled "biodegradable" or "flushable," don't break down as advertised.
Every property owner connected to the town system is a potential contributor to sewer issues if they aren't careful about what they dispose of and how they dispose of it.
It's not just about being a problem; every person is also a potential victim of bad sewer stewardship because sewer issues affect everyone.
"What a lot of people don't know is that we are only responsible for what happens at the mains," Barnes said. "We aren't responsible if your pipes are clogged, and that can become a financial burden to a homeowner."
He said anyone who uses the town sewer system should be responsible with what they flush or pour down drains.
"It gets pulled into our pumping system at our lift stations," he said. "This causes the pumps to burn up, because, while they are clogged up, they're still trying to run, and that burns up the motors."
In addition to burning up the town sewer system motors, rinsing the wrong things down the drain can damage the entire system by breaking lines and causing backups in a home and can also release toxic materials into the environment.
It is easy to forget that indoor plumbing hasn't always existed and isn't an indestructible system. However, it wasn't until 1885 that a comprehensive sewage system was introduced to the United States in Chicago.
In early March, Barnes and his crew battled two lift stations that had been sidelined due to the disposal of unwanted items.
Barnes said the only thing that should ever be flushed down a toilet is human waste and toilet paper.
Items such as disposable diapers, tampons and their applicators, sanitary napkins, cotton balls and swabs, condoms, cleaning wipes of any kind, facial tissue, bandages and bandage wrappings, automotive fluids, paint, solvents, sealants and thinners, poisons and hazardous waste should never be put into the system.
Also, never pour grease in into a sink drain, and try to utilize garbage disposals less.
In addition to the aforementioned items, never flush unused medications down the toilet or wash them down the sink.
Medications can be safely disposed of at an approved prescription drug take-back site, such as at the Milltown Police Department. However, this excludes liquid, aerosol and sharps of any sort.
Milltown residents who are experiencing sewer-related issues should call the Milltown Town Hall at 812-633-4848.
"I'll come out and look at it to determine whether or not it's on town property and if we can help at all," Barnes said. "If there's a clean-out on the property, we might be able to help, but, if there's not, they'll have to contact a plumber."