There were two overflow events at this wastewater pump station in St. Agatha in April, and cloth rags nearly caused an issue on July 6. Credit: Don Eno / Fiddlehead Focus

ST. AGATHA, Maine — Multiple cloth rags were found stuck in both transfer station pumps at the wastewater treatment plant on Monday, causing the system to malfunction.

St. Agatha town officials said that residents need to be mindful of what they dispose of in toilets after the cloth rags temporarily blocked sewage from moving through the system.

Town Manager Aubrie Michaud said the waste will overflow if the system backs up enough, causing a spill that could result in Department of Environmental Protection fines and other violation consequences.

“It’s a big deal when it happens,” Michaud said.

She said that employees were able to resolve Monday’s malfunction before any long-term damage occurred, but at a price. Public works employees were called in on overtime on their holiday day, as were electricians and a vacuum truck operator.

“The price tag on this event will be quite high. We try our very best to run the sewer effectively and efficiently in order to not raise the user rate, but when items are flushed that shouldn’t be it causes unnecessary damage to the system and will ultimately result in a rate increase,” Michaud said.

Michaud asked people to refrain from flushing anything other than toilet paper, water or human waste down their toilets, and shared a list of items that should definitely not be flushed, even if the items are labeled as “flushable.”

The list includes diapers, sanitary products including tampons, facial tissues, cleaning wipes, dental floss, cigarette butts and of course, any cloth items. For a complete list, visit the town of St. Agatha Facebook page.

“Thankfully, the problem was remedied before anything detrimental happened to the equipment and the station did not see a drop of water touch the surface,” she said.