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COVID leads to more people flushing items down their toilets that they shouldn't

Following a sewer blockage caused by paper towels, wipes and rags on Tuesday, Jan. 26, Oak Lodge Water Services District reminded the public to only flush the "three P's: pee, poo, and toilet paper."

Anything else that people flush down their toilets can wreak havoc on the district's sewer system. Many wipes — even ones that are labeled "flushable" — clog sewer lines, increase utility maintenance and create environmental concerns.

With more people using and flushing antiseptic wipes to combat COVID-19, sewer utilities nationwide are seeing more backups into people's residences, which can spill over into groundwater and endanger the environment.

COURTESY PHOTO - Officials at the Oak Lodge Water Reclamation Facility remove a sewer blockage caused by paper towels, wipes and rags on Jan. 26.  Toilet paper is designed to break down and dissolve. District officials said that all other paper products are made of sturdy, non-woven fibers that do not break down like toilet paper and cause impacts to wastewater systems.

"It's costly for the District and ratepayers to repair blockages in the system, but this cost is completely avoidable if everyone follows the three-P's rule," said Phil Lawrence, the Oak Lodge district's interim collections field supervisor.

Lawrence said that wastewater treatment facilities are Oak Lodge's last line of defense in protecting the environment from household wastes entering streams or the Willamette River.

"By simply remembering the three P's, we can all make a huge difference and keep the district's sewer system flowing smoothly," Lawrence said.

If you experience a clogged pipe in your home, call a plumber. If you see a sewer overflow, call the district at 503-654-7765.


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