Bega Valley Shire CouncilBega Valley Shire Council

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Toilet paper shortage causing problems

Wet wipes blocking the sewer system.30 March 2020

With toilet paper in short supply in some of our towns and villages, it appears that our community are turning to alternate products such as wet wipes, paper towel, or newspaper to get the job done. 

Unfortunately, flushing of these alternative products is resulting in increased blockages within the sewer network.  On a smaller scale, wipes and alternative products can also interfere with the functioning of septic tanks and Aerated Wastewater Treatment Systems (AWTS).

Council’s Senior Environmental Health Officer Myfanwy Appleton asks that the community be mindful of what they flush, dispose of single use alternatives to toilet paper in the red bin, and take precautions to ensure public health when using reusable toilet paper alternatives.

“The only things that should go down the loo are the three P’s: pee, poo, and (toilet) paper. While we recognise the challenges people are facing with toilet paper shortages, we need sewage to stay in the sewer network rather than overflowing into public spaces, or backing up into homes,” Ms Appleton said.

“Wet wipes and other alternatives to toilet paper do not break down like toilet paper, being tougher and stronger, and therefore get caught in our network and create blockages.”

Basket traps installed in Council sewer lines catch solid debris such as wipes before they enter our sewer pump stations. These traps need to be emptied manually, a smelly, thankless, yet absolutely necessary task for Council staff to prevent sewer blockages.

In Merimbula alone, these baskets need to be emptied up to three times a week due to the amount of wipes and non-flushable materials being put into the system.       

If you are experiencing toilet paper shortages and need to use an alternative, the following principles apply:

  • Bag and bin any single use wipes or towelling that you are using as an alternative rather than flushing these products

If you are using a reusable cloth wipe as an alternative to toilet paper, similar precautions to cloth nappies apply:

  • Dispose of solids in the toilet.
  • Keep an enclosed soak bucket next to the toilet for used cloths.
  • All cloths should be washed as soon as possible with a washing detergent, a disinfectant soak and rinse, and thoroughly dried before next use.
  • Take care to reduce contact with faeces and urine and wash your hands with soap thoroughly after toileting.
  • As per standard health advice, grey water from any nappies or cloth wipes should be disposed of underground (never in a sprinkler system) and must not be stored more than 24 hours due to the risk of bacterial growth.   

Photograph: The flushing of wet wipes is causing problems.



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