When I’m not hugging a keyboard, I work as a certified wastewater operator. That’s a fancy term for someone who makes sure the facilities work properly that clean the water that leaves your house before it heads to the stream or river. Work is so easy if all I had to deal with was water, but people have a bad habit of putting things in the water that don’t belong.

Every plumber will stress to never put anything down the toilet besides toilet paper. Some plumbers insist you seek the best single-ply toilet paper available. Beware of thick two and three-ply papers if you have an old home because it can wreck havoc on old plumbing.

By the time the water gets to my end the toilet paper has dissolved and everything works beautifully. However, people tend to treat a toilet like a trash can.

Everything from hair to candy wrappers; hamsters to lottery tickets, washes up in a wastewater treatment plant making my job more difficult than it has to be. My personal annoyance is dental floss because it gets wrapped up in pumps and then everything that normally passes through clings to the floss causing me to wonder how far the trash can was away from the toilet for someone to choose to put it in the toilet instead.

Lately, the few folks who know I work in wastewater treatment have been sending me articles since the coronavirus came to town. There are articles about coronavirus being found in wastewater; articles about tracing how much coronavirus is in wastewater to determine how many people in a given area possibly have COVID-19 compared to the number of confirmed cases in that area; and articles on how people are throwing masks, disinfectant wipes, rubber gloves, and all sorts of PPE in the toilet causing major blockages in people’s homes, the street pipes, and the wastewater plant.

Philadelphia Inquirer reported…

“This is taking a toll on our water treatment infrastructure and residents’ own private property,” Mayor Kenney said. “So far, 19 of the Philadelphia department’s pumping stations have been impacted by PPE waste, including gloves, masks, and, most of all, wipes. The Water Department has seen 12 times more infrastructure clogging waste at facilities than normal.”

If you don’t believe the mayor, would you believe a plumber…

Bill Pease, regional vice president of sales and operations for Horizon Services, explained: “When you flush a sanitizing wipe, in most cases they are heavier and lay at the bottom of your pipe, so they can get snagged on other materials. They also absorb the grease and any hair attached to them, and it hinders any breakdown. Most of them will not break down in the sewer system.”

and

It’s not just sanitizing wipes that cause problems…baby wipes, surface cleaning wipes, and paper towels all cause infrastructure and plumbing problems…They don’t instantly dissolve like toilet paper. Even wipes sold as ‘flushable’ often don’t have the science or regulations to back up that claim…

In the sewer system, if wipes get clogged, they can act as a magnet for other materials and could cause a partial or full obstruction. These obstructions can lead to sewer backups that impact peoples’ homes.

So, whether you want to avoid your toilet getting clogged and spilling all over the bathroom floor, or your pipes getting clogged and backing up sewage in your basement or bathtub, or you just want to make my job easier, please use the trash can for EVERYTHING that’s not toilet paper.

It really is that simple.