There’s been an unfortunate side effect to the shortage of toilet paper in the Hilltops region.
As supermarket staff stave off busloads of city shoppers who ride into our towns hell bent on raiding shelves for the necessities that residents are already lining up at dawn to buy, it seems shire-wide sewerage systems are now buckling under the pressure.
Hilltops Council says the higher than usual volume of wet wipes and rags coming into the sewerage treatment plants was causing sewer pipe blockages.
Council general manager Anthony O’Reilly said council always faced challenges with these toiletry (and non-toiletry) items clogging sewers and breaking pumps.
“This is particularly prevalent with the current toilet paper situation,” he said.
He reminded residents that everything poured down a drain or flushed down toilets goes through the sewerage system.
“The pipes that run from your home to the main sewer are only a few inches wide,” Mr O’Reilly explained, “they can become blocked easily and, if blocked, sewage can quickly back up into your street, garden or even your home, causing a dirty and costly mess”.
Having to unclog the mess that these products cause, he says, poses a significant cost to the local community.
“The staff time and resources required to fix these blockages comes at a high cost to ratepayers,” Mr O’Reilly said.
“For each blockage, council fitters have to travel to site, lift the pump with a crane truck, dismantle the pump, remove the blockage, re-assemble the pump and put the station back online.
“Every time there is a blockage, we also risk damaging the pump, the pipework and the electrical equipment.
“If a blockage occurs on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owner to unblock it,” he added, “then there’s the risk of raw sewerage overflow into neighbouring properties or the environment,” he said.
Wet wipes include baby wipes, toilet wipes, body wipes, personal hygiene wipes and cleaning wipes.
“They are often marketed as “flushable” or biodegradable”, but instead of disintegrating after flushing, like toilet paper, the synthetic wet wipes do not break down, contributing to major blockages in our sewerage network,” Mr O’Reilly said.
Fats, oils and grease have also been earmarked as culprits.
“After they are washed down the sink, they quickly cool and solidify, sticking to the walls of the pipes causing blockages,” he explained, “if they mix with other items, such as wet wipes or sanitary products, then blockages can become more serious”.
Other items that should never be flushed, said the general manager, are paper towels, women’s sanitary products, medical dressings, cotton buds, condoms, colostomy bags and disposable nappies.
“These materials should be bagged and disposed of in a rubbish bin,” Mr O’Reilly said.