Toilet paper shortage could impact FPUD, Rainbow sewer systems
Last updated 4/3/2020 at 4:32am
The shortage of toilet paper is causing some residents to utilize other wiping substances and, when toilets are flushed with some of those alternatives, local sewer lines are impacted.
"The primary issue we have when people do that is backups in the sewer," Jack Bebee, general manager of Fallbrook Public Utility District, said.
"We've seen an increase in our maintenance needs related to dealing with items such as flushable wipes," Tom Kennedy, general manager of Rainbow Municipal Water District, said.
"Paper towels are not particularly made either to get through the sewer system," Bebee said.
Scratch paper, wax and other materials have been flushed down toilet drains and into the sewer systems.
"We find all sorts of things in there," Kennedy said.
"Clogs have been caused by that," Bebee said.
"We see the flushable wipes more than anything else. They're not flushable. They might say flushable on the package, but they're not flushable," Kennedy said. "It doesn't degrade. You need things that are biodegradable."
Toilet paper is specifically made for being transmitted through the sewer system. Other products aren't.
"They don't biodegrade," Kennedy said.
"It increases the maintenance," Bebee said.
"They clump up," Kennedy said. "They also clog up pumps used to move the wastewater around."
Maintenance crews must address the backups.
"It requires confined space entry," Kennedy said.
Even if confined space entry is not required, the maintenance prevents the district personnel from adhering to the recommended 6-foot social distance separation.
"That's a multiperson crew that has to come out," Bebee said. "We're trying to keep people separated."
The backup may also be before the cleanout.
"A lot of times those things can cause problems on the homeowners' side," Bebee said.
Properties not connected to the sewer system could also see problems.
"What's bad for our system is bad for septic systems as well," Kennedy said.
FPUD has a wastewater treatment plant while Rainbow has a capacity agreement to send wastewater to the Oceanside outfall. Both systems begin with sewer lines.
"Sometimes it will get backed up at the collection system. Sometimes it will get all the way to the treatment plant and cause problems at the headworks," Bebee said.
The backups in the Rainbow system are less likely to be conveyed to the Oceanside section of the line.
"There are several lift stations in between there. We catch them there," Kennedy said.
Because the backups are caused by multiple items clogging together the problem might not be found immediately.
"Sometimes they don't show up right away," Bebee said.
"If people start to do it on a large scale, it will cause problems," Bebee said. "It's something that's important to keep that under control."
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected]