When one Australian state was in lockdown last year, wastewater workers found some truly bizarre things people flushed down the toilet.
When one Australian state was in lockdown last year, wastewater workers found some truly bizarre things people flushed down the toilet.

Weirdest stuff people flush down the toilet

People flush the weirdest things down the toilet, including mobile phones and underwear, NSW wastewater workers found out during a spike in pipe blockages last year.

As the state locked down to curb the spread of coronavirus last autumn and a rush on toilet paper emptied supermarket shelves, the amount of blockages increased dramatically, according to Sydney Water statistics.

Between January and May 2020, a period that included the first statewide lockdown, the number of blockages increased by 38 per cent compared with the same period the year before.

 

Most pipe jams are caused by wet wipes, sanitary products and cooking oil, which clog the arteries of the sewage system because they don't dissolve fast enough.

But Sydney Water workers also found some truly strange items that people had flushed down the toilet.

"The items we have found in the wastewater network over the past year that are quite bizarre, everything from false teeth, golf balls and even (parts of) a mattress," Sydney Water network regional head Emma Demo said.

"We've also found mobile phones, towels, underwear and glasses."

So-called fatbergs caused sewage blockages last year as people locked down to curb the spread of coronavirus. Picture: Sydney Water via NCA NewsWire
So-called fatbergs caused sewage blockages last year as people locked down to curb the spread of coronavirus. Picture: Sydney Water via NCA NewsWire

Removing the stuff costs millions of dollars yearly. Ms Demo said it was "unacceptable" that people continued to flush the wrong things down the toilet.

"The wastewater system isn't designed for a mobile phone or false teeth. We'd like people to be more aware and understand that the wrong thing down the toilet can cause huge issues," she said.

"This problem doesn't only have a financial impact, but individual homeowners may also be out of pocket with expensive plumbing bills, something which can be avoided by simply thinking about what we flush."

As the state locked down to curb the spread of coronavirus last autumn, and a rush on toilet paper emptied supermarket shelves, the amount of blockages increased dramatically, according to Sydney Water statistics. Picture: Tim Hunter
As the state locked down to curb the spread of coronavirus last autumn, and a rush on toilet paper emptied supermarket shelves, the amount of blockages increased dramatically, according to Sydney Water statistics. Picture: Tim Hunter

Urine, excrement and toilet paper were the only things that should go down the toilet, Ms Demo said.

The Sydney area with the greatest increase in blockages was the Hills Shire Council northwest of the city.

The area had an 119 per cent increase between January and June 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Wollongong, Woollahra, Randwick and Kiama councils were all in the top five, with increases between 61 and 67 per cent each.

Wollondilly, Burwood, Camden, Sutherland and Canada Bay were also in the top 10.

Hunter Water, which serves the cities of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, also had a "significant" increase in blockages in the months following March last year.

Originally published as Weirdest stuff people flush down the toilet



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