The Town of Sylvan Lake is reminding residents not to flush anything outside of the 3P’s — pee, poop and toilet paper.
Kevin Gannon, environmental services manager with the Town of Sylvan Lake, says just because a retailer labels a product as able to be flushed doesn’t mean it is.
“It may mean that it has the ability to be flushed, but it’s not its purpose,” said Gannon.
In wake of the recent toilet paper shortage spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible people are using other products, such as “flushable” wipes or paper towel, in order to stay sanitary and clean.
“Toilet paper is the only thing that should be used to be flushed afterwards,” Gannon explained. “If you have to make sure it’s not a cloth-type material, make sure it’s something that’s a little bit easier to break down.”
This will allow the treatment facilities, or pumps, have a chance to try to send the products upstream where hopefully it can get filtered out with minimal impact on the system.
Any clogs or problems with the system could potentially increase utility rates as it takes maintenance and management if items that can’t be flushed, such as these wipes, paper towel and feminine hygiene products, get sent down the toilet.
The concern over different products being flushed through the systems is something the industry has been seeing for years, said Gannon.
Throughout his career, Gannon says, he’s seen all types of items being flushed ranging from toys to remotes.
“That seems to be some of the mentality with individuals, they believe that as long as it can go through their system then it’s OK, but that’s not the case.”
Many municipalities are trying to get residents to understand the impacts they have individually on the utility system with Vancouver going as far as using mascots.
Gannon says everybody is trying to get the education out there and the Town is hoping to do a better job of it this year.
“… because of this emergency we’re trying to get the word out there that everything that goes down the pipe could potentially plug your system, plug ours and then we’re facing larger consequences and facing an emergency within an emergency,” he added.
He says medication has been historically problematic in terms of getting flushed and should always be returned to a pharmacy for disposal.
When flushed it goes into the treatment facility, treated and then sent back out into the water supply.
“The water gets released back into the river and that medication does not break down and it goes into the water system.”
Additionally, he says, the system is developed to properly treat the water from your dishes, but not grease.
Gannon said the substance should not be flushed down your system, whether it be through the drain in the sink or the toilet, as it could plug you system all the way to their system.
Having to go out and do regular flushing programs of the sewer mains would also lead to increased costs.
He says the grease should be disposed of in your garbage with the yard and kitchen waste program.
Sylvan Lake runs on well water and licenses ensure the Town only uses a certain amount of water per well. The licence makes sure stays within the parameters of how much can be pulled each day, month and year, as well as ensuring the reservoir is up to its proper level to be able to handle emergencies such as fires.
Even with everyone at home, according to Gannon, there has only been a minimal increase in water usage in town.