Canadian municipal leaders and wastewater professionals are urging everyone to NOT flush anything but the 3P’s—pee, poop, and paper (toilet paper).

There is never a good time for a toilet to back-up in your home or your whole street. “But now, at a time when we are being quarantined or self-isolated at home due to COVID-19, nobody wants a situation that would force you out of your home where you are safest,” observed Robert Haller, executive director of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA).

CWWA is aware there has been a rush to buy toilet paper. It is also aware that some people may need to consider alternative products. Yes, there are many alternatives, but they CANNOT BE FLUSHED.

Our municipal sewer systems are built to handle human waste and toilet paper that is specifically designed to deteriorate quickly. Anything else that is put down your toilet or sink can lead to clogs, blockages, and wastewater equipment damage. Any of these situations can shut down sewer systems.

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) poured down the sink congeal and line the sewer walls. Then, so-called ‘flushable’ wipes, paper towels, and hygiene products collect together with the grease to form clogs. These clogs can block your toilet, your home sewer line, or form “fatbergs” that constrict the sewers of entire neighbourhoods. These clogs can also result in overflows of raw sewage into local rivers and lakes.

Raw sewage can back-up into your home and your neighbours’ homes, which will likely require you to evacuate your house for professional cleaning. Large blockages often require municipal staff to clear them, at a time when our efforts and tax dollars need to be focused on critical services.

This picture was taken on March 17, 2020 at a sewage pumping station in London, Ontario. Image Credit: Barry Orr and CWWA.

CWWA has been sharing the 3P’s message for years, but it has never been more important than now. Canadian municipalities are seeing a very significant upward spike in the number of clogs attributable to increased use of  ‘alternative’ products such as toilet wipes, paper towels and even tissues (that do not break down like toilet paper).

“To be clear, it doesn’t matter if the manufacturer claims on the package label it is  ‘flushable’,” said Haller. “It is not. We have also seen the increased flushing of cleaning wipes and rubber gloves in recent weeks.”

“We urge homeowners to remember that toilets are not trash cans,” added Barry Orr, a sewer outreach and control inspector for the City of London. Orr is also the Canadian spokesman for the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group and a researcher at Ryerson University that’s testing the ‘flushability’ of products.

All in all, your local water and wastewater professionals are urging all Canadians to resist flushing anything down their toilets except the 3P’s (pee, poop and toilet paper)— especially during this time when concerns about public health are heightened.

Header Image Credit: City of London Wastewater Treatment Operations.

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