This composite image shows mopheads recently flushed down toilets in Juneau that are creating problems at the  Auke Bay wastewater treatment facility. (Courtesy Photos / City and Borough of Juneau)

Mop up duty: Massive flushing of mopheads down toilets causing sewage system clogs

City officials to ask for the culprits to clean up their act.

Mopheads are suddenly being flushed down toilets in massive numbers and clogging up the Auke Bay wastewater treatment facility, prompting city officials to plead for the culprits to clean up their act.

The disposable industrial mopheads started showing up at the treatment facility about a week ago, and about “a half-dozen to dozen five-gallon buckets of these” have been removed by workers every day since, said Chad Gubala, production and treatment manager for the city’s utilities division.

“Our operators are out there cleaning this stuff daily, every hour,” he said Wednesday, noting the mopheads are interfering with the wastewater treatment process and have resulted in some overflows.

Gubala said wastewater officials are hoping calling attention to the problem publicly will resolve the issue before they try to flush out the culprit(s).

“We’re currently asking for voluntary compliance on this,” he said. “If we don’t get it we’ll go out and find out where this is coming from. We can do that because we have some pretty good tools to work with.”

If further action is necessary those responsible would likely first get a warning from city officials, followed by action through the city’s legal department, Gubala said. He said any such activity interfering with the sewer or treatment system is a violation of city code punishable by up to a $2,000-a-day fine and 90 days in jail.

It doesn’t appear the massive mophead dump is the work of vandals, but rather linked to commercial activity, Gubala said.

“They’re fairly large so it’s unlikely these are coming from residences,” he said.

While such activity might be seen as the mischief of a few, um, mopheads, the problem actually extends well beyond Juneau and the past week. Other reports of flushed mopheads clogging wastewater facilities have been reported in recent years in locales such in British Columbia, California, Minnesota, Florida and many others.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

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