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Public Utilities seeing items other than toilet paper flushed down sewer system in Gloucester County

Public Utilities encourages residents to not flush items such as newspapers, paper towels, hygiene products, diapers, wipes or other trash into the system.

GLOUCESTER COUNTY, Va. — Public utility crews in Gloucester County have had their work cut out for them. They said there's an increase in stoppages in the sewer lines. The department believes the pandemic may play a role.

Public Utilities Director Chris Dawson said crews are responding to a growing number of stoppages in the sewer lines because people are flushing things other than toilet paper down the toilet, and that's a problem.

“We're seeing paper towels, we have recovered used newspaper, we're seeing plastic bags,” Dawson said. “We just want to get the word out, what one person does can have an impact.”

Dawson said they're also seeing more fats, oils and grease in the sewer line. The Public Utilities Department has a regional program to address fats, oils and grease that comes from restaurants, but the department doesn’t regulate grease that comes from homes.

“We have an example on Main Street where there's something in that sewer pipe that catches every piece of paper that comes down the line and we are always flushing that section to keep it from backing up in possibly spilling,” Dawson said. “The less of the non-toilet paper items that get flushed down the sewer the easier it makes our job.”

Dawson said it's tough to say if the toilet paper shortages during the pandemic is the main reason, or if it's just a coincidence.

Regardless, these poor substitutes can cause problems for sewers that could include backups into homes and malfunctioning treatment equipment.

“That's all it would take is one person to flush the wrong thing down to cause a problem that could affect a lot of people,” Dawson said. “We're just trying to concentrate on the doing the essential functions and not doing the things we can possibly avoid.”

For more information, visit askHRgreen.org/pipes or call 804-693-4044.

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