Toilet paper substitutes threaten to block sewers

Shoalhaven Water’s acting director Robert Horner is urging residents not to flush anything down their toilet other than toilet paper.

Thu 19 Mar 2020

In a recent interview with South Coast Register's Stuart Thomson, acting director of Shoalhaven Water Robert Horner voiced concern about people using alternative products (such as paper towel, tissues, serviettes or flushable wipes) as there can be nasty consequences down the track, not only for themselves but the sewerage systems generally.

If you can't find toilet paper and have to use an alternative (such as paper towel, tissues, serviettes or flushable wipes), Mr Horner said residents should put those products in a plastic bag, tie them up and put them in the bin. Toilet paper is unique in the way it breaks down. With the force of one flush enough the turn the product into a mulch-like material which is able to flow through pipes very easily. Other materials like paper towels, even facial tissues, baby wipes, household cleaning wipes and other products that are advertised as flushable wipes - don't break down in the same fashion.

In the worst-case scenario other materials can clog up internal pipes and then lead to an overflow inside a house. If the products happen to make their way through into the sewer mains and then into pump stations, those types of products can clog pumps. Once pumps become clogged, pumping stations fill up and we can do environmental damage to our waterways or other environmentally sensitive areas.

How to prevent sewer blockages

Signs of a sewer blockage might include toilets or basins are slow to empty, gurgling noises occur in sanitary drains, or drains overflow.