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Toilet paper substitutes threaten to clog sewers amid Coronavirus pandemic

  • Toilet paper substitutes threaten to clog sewers amid Coronavirus pandemic

You are probably aware of people panic buying toilet paper across the world as they prepare to isolate at home during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, temporary shortages of toilet paper are a common occurrence in different countries.

Across the world, water companies have long tried to educate people not to flush products other than toilet paper, such as wet wipes, as they don’t break down properly and may cause system blockage.

In the wake of the pandemic, water services officials, among them UK’s Thames Water, who invented the word fatberg ─ congealed masses of fat, oil, wet wipes, and other unflushables that block sewers and cause flooding risks  ─ are warning about the danger of flushing down toilets toilet paper substitutes such as kitchen roll and wet wipes.

Supply chain expert Professor Richard Wilding told The Guardian ‘If kitchen towels, baby wipes or industrial papers are used as a replacement for toilet paper, our sewage systems could readily become blocked with the resulting chaos and increased health risks associated with this. Ultimately, water companies may not have the infrastructure and equipment to unblock the sewer system.’

Australian newspaper NT News even went as far as to print extra pages to help those that were caught without enough toilet paper supplies. More humorous than anything else in this day and age, the idea of flushing newsprint down the toilet would not please water service providers.

The advice is clear: only ever flush the three P’s – pee, poo and (toilet) paper, as Hunter Water, in New South Wales (Australia), tweeted its customers when they recently removed a 14 tonne fatberg from its Morpeth waste water treatment plant.

Across the world in the US, Franklin County officials in Ohio have noticed an increase in volume in the sewer system, which they expected given the number of people staying home to prevent coronavirus spread, but once again they voiced fears of paper towel and supposedly flushable wipes: ‘They wreak havoc in our system. … Please don’t flush those down the toilet.’, reported USA Today.

At a time when all businesses may have to deal with staff shortages due to illness and quarantines, it is important for everyone to be careful and not increase the workload of companies that provide essential water services.

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