GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — It might sound like common sense, but you need to hear it: No wipes, in pipes.
"A full 30 percent, since March, of our sanitary sewer overflows have been related to wipes, so that's pretty staggering," said Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utilities Public Information Officer Gale Ketteler.
Pandemic panic buying and subsequent toilet paper shortages have resulted in folks flushing paper towels and wipes down the toilet.
Operations Manager Adam Conn said the city of Greensboro has seen the same uptick in pump clogs and sewer spills.
"Please don't flush anything except toilet paper," Conn pleaded.
He estimated a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in clogs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. That number is projected to get worse.
"Something like this can be on a delay," Conn said. "People start using more wipes and it takes a little bit of time for it to accumulate in the system and we're just now seeing an increase."
He said in the next few weeks, we'll really see the impact it's having.
Why should you care?
"It can back up in your septic, it can plug our lines, it can back up your neighbors' toilets, and they're going to love you for that," Ketteler said sarcastically.
It can also be bad for the environment.
"A clog like that can back up into a basement, out of toilets, and other things that cause significant damage to a home," Conn said.
The city of Greensboro took a couple of days ago while trying to unclog a pump full of wipes.
Ketteler said even wipes that are labeled 'flushable' don't disintegrate as well as toilet paper, so throw them in the trash.
"Maybe it sounds kind of nasty to you, but it's even nastier to have your toilet back up," he said.