California’s Beale Air Force Base Overwhelmed with Wipes

Collection Systems, Technology and Innovation

Written and photography by: Senior Airman Colville McFee, 9th Reconnaissance Wing

Beale Air Force Base, Calif. – The 9th Civil Engineering Squadron (9CES) provides many skills and mission essential aspects such as, airfield maintenance, fire emergency services, explosive ordnance disposal and utility system construction to name few around the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.

With the COVID-19 pandemic quarantining Airmen and families, a rise of pipe clogging due to flushable wipes has risen. The 9th Civil Engineering Squadron (9CES) has been taken away from the mission due to this issue.

“In theory using the flushable wipes sound like a good idea but in reality it’s actually very harmful to the plumbing system and the environment.” Said Master Sgt. Destrey Robbins, Water & Fuel Systems section chief.

The result of a sewer main or lift station becoming clogged is that Airmen and families are unable to flush their toilets, slippage of sewage into the environment and heavy environmental fines charged to the base.

“Flushable wipes are a nightmare for the sewer infrastructure, especially housing on base.” Said Staff Sgt. Robert Maughan, 9CES Water & Fuel Systems supervisor.

Wipes in the sanitary sewer system causes Water and Fuel Systems maintenance technicians extra work and could cause an environmental hazard or even damage to living quarters.

“To put it into perspective, technicians have had to clean sanitary sewer pumps once a month now which should only have to be done once a year,” said Robbins, “Our Airmen are working 16 plus hours to unclog the pipe systems and that takes them out of the mission and puts a strain on the rest of the team.”

Beale Airmen are working around the clock to continue to find solutions on how to keep the pipes clean and keep the mission going.

“We talk about helping each other and looking out for each and that we are a team, so the biggest thing to help each other and our Airmen is to not flush wipes and throw them away in the trashcan where they will be processed properly,” said Robbins.

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