Clogged Clorox wipes cause 100-gallon sewage backup for Prairie du Sac building owner

PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. (WISC) — Shortly before the pandemic began, Benjamin Nelms bought a 100-year-old bank building in the heart of Prairie du Sac in hopes of renovating it for the community’s use. Little did he know, he would get to know the community on a level too close for comfort.

“This was not the way I intended to get to know the community,” Nelms said.

Two weeks ago, Nelms entered his building and smelled sewage coming from the basement. When he went down the stairs to see what the cause was, Nelms found himself ankle deep in sewage water.

“This room was covered in brown water and my new shower was covered in brown filth,” Nelms said. “It’s all been sterilized since then.”

Nelms said there he cleared out around 100 gallons of sewage water. He said he was fortunate that the pandemic put a hold on developing the interior of the building and the only things ruined were a few lumber boards he had stores in the basement.

Nelms said after speaking with the sewage commission, they determined the cause was a backup up main pipe caused by an overflow of things like Clorox wipes.

“We are seeing a lot of wipes, towels, maybe even a bit of clothing and just things we don’t want to see come down the toilet,” said Jerry Endres with the Sauk Prairie Wastewater Plant.

“I’m kind of a case study of the downstream effect of how that can hurt people,” Nelms said. “People don’t know they’re doing anything wrong. Disinfectant wipes, people put masks down there. Eventually that will stress the system and then someone like me will have to pay the price.”

The city told Nelms they aren’t liable for the cost, putting him out more than $3000 out of pocket.

Nelms’ neighbor across the street said she didn’t have any sewage backup but still felt the impacts.

“Luckily for me, I only had an erupting toilet but I know my neighbors had it much worse,’ said Pamela Ziegler, owner of Ziegler Photography. “If we can get the word out that people should not be putting extra cleaning things down their toilet during COVID, I think that would help alleviate the problem that we saw.”

Nelms hopes that by sharing his story, it will resonate with someone to only flush what is meant to be flushed down the drain.

“Someone like me, could be you next week who is not only vacuuming out someone else’s urine and feces but also paying out of your own pocket. We can’t have that. Especially in these times. Budgets are tight. People are worried about next month and next year, myself included. We just have to take care of each other even if it’s a little thing like what you flush.”