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People flushing things other than toilet paper causing major backups

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People flushing things other than toilet paper is causing major backups in city sewage systems. (WWMT/Battle Creek Department of Public Works Engineering)

With more people at home due to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order, toilet paper has been in high demand. The problem has led to an excess of items being flushed down toilets that have the potential to cause major infrastructural damage.

Battle Creek's sewer collection system has seen an increase in system failures due to "flushable" wipes, and disinfectant wipes according to Carl Fedders, a city engineer and the assistant director of the Department of Public Works.

"Wipes that claim to be flushable and disinfectant wipes need to be disposed of in the trash and not flushed down the toilet," Fedders said. "If wipes continue to be flushed, customers could experience a disruption in service, which could result in sewage overflows or sewage backup into residents' homes. The only acceptable items to be sent down the toilet are poop, pee and paper."

Rocky Staudinger, the owner of Plumbing Works LLC, said his business has seen service call volume increase substantially.

Staudinger said items other than standard tissue, even if they're described as flushable, don't break down as well and lead to sewage overflows and backups.

“My recommendation is just your standard tissue is the only thing I would recommend to use. I know being scarce, other means are necessary. If at all possible, worst-case scenario, I’d find other ways to dispose of non-flushable items if that’s what it takes to get clean. The sanitary systems just aren’t meant for anything other than the normal tissue," Staudinger said.

Staudinger said older homes are especially susceptible.

He said his company is trying to limit service to emergency situations only, to avoid exposure to COVID-19 for staff and customers.

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