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'Don’t use your toilet as a trash can,' says public works official

Public works directors warn toilet paper shortages during the coronavirus pandemic is causing clogged sewer pumps.

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The director of public works for Georgetown Charter Township has a strong message for those running low on toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic: Resist the urge to flush wipes.

Joel Hanenburg said people increasingly flushing wipes and other items has caused two sewer pumps to clog in a week. He said it’s very unusual for them to be clogged that frequently.

“Don’t flush these things down because it creates issues in our sewer system. It can back up into someone’s home, back up in the main. No one wants to clean up a mess in their basement, and it clogs up our pumps," said Hanenburg.

Credit: Joel Hanenburg
A worker unclogs a sewer pump.

Hanenburg said the only way to fix this gross problem is by hand, which employees at the public works department have to do. 

“It’s not so nice,” said Hanenburg. “We have to take gloves and take it out by hand. It’s the only way to get it out.”

He said if someone does need to resort to finding alternative tools than toilet paper if they run out, make sure to toss those items in the trash can after use, not the toilet.

The director of public works in South Haven has a similar message. While they haven’t had any clogged pumps this week, William Hunter said the excess use could put a strain on the system.

RELATED: DON'T FLUSH THAT! Grand Rapids city officials urge 'No Wipes in the Pipes.'

“I don’t know why there’s a run on toilet paper, but could people be using stuff that’s not toilet paper?" said Hunter. "There’s more people at home, rather than at work, so what are they using?”

Hunter said wipes, even if they are labeled as flushable, won’t disintegrate in water like toilet paper does. They will keep their shape from the moment they are flushed until they clog up a pump.

“Don’t use your toilet as a trash can,” said Hunter. “Only put in there human waste and toilet paper.”

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