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Toilet paper is scarce but SLO Co. utility managers warn against using alternatives

Posted at 6:58 AM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 10:06:38-04

Coronavirus restrictions issued around the globe have prompted toilet paper pandemonium in San Luis Obispo County and across the country, which is causing people to use alternatives that could damage the sewer system.

The inability for many people to find toilet paper has led some to flush alternatives like napkins, wipes, and paper towels down the drain.

"These alternatives to toilet paper are not biodegradable, they do not break down easily and readily in the sewer system," SLO Co. Public Works Division Manager Mark Chiramonte said. "So this can lead to clogs in our sewer systems and laterals, clog up pumps and head works at sewer system and sewer plants.'

Chiramonte wants to warn people of the potential health hazards created by flushing the wrong products down the drain.

"They clog up, they back up and clog into a larger mass than can back up toilets and sewer systems so people may have sewers backing up into their homes," Chiramonte said.

The short term solution is not a pretty one, but something Chiramonte calls imperative.

"I know it's uncomfortable, but they need to provide bags adjacent to the toilet if they don't have toilet paper," Chiramonte said. "Place any alternatives in those bags and place in the trash bin as they would with regular trash."

SLO Co. Public Works has several staff members on call in the event of a sewer emergency.