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Environment & Energy Report

What’s a Fatberg? NYC Goes to War Against Flushable Toilet Wipes

March 15, 2019, 12:59 PM

One of humanity’s most private and pervasive hygiene habits is changing. And Sal Scapelito’s job is a sign that the trend may not be sustainable.

Every two minutes, the 31-year-old sewage treatment worker cleans off a five-foot-wide device designed to prevent tree branches from entering north Brooklyn’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility.

But it’s not just filtering sticks. Instead, it’s strung with spongy stalactites of whitish tissue. Scapelito jabs a pole at the quivering mass, swooshing it into a bin, where its composition is clear to him: “It’s majority wipes,” he says.

Wipes, as in those moist towelettes used...

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