While there may be people who blush at the idea of pillow talk, toilet talk may be on a whole other level of awkwardness. But, according to the Town of Crossfield, it is needed, considering some things that are being flushed down toilets may be causing serious problems for the town's sewage infrastructure.

According to a summer newsletter from the town, residents are being asked not to flush products labelled as 'flushable' as they are not exactly as advertised.

"Products that are labelled as 'flushable' actually cause major problems for the town's sewer infrastructure system, resulting in sewer backups into residences."

And it's not just Crossfield which is having these issues. The City of Airdrie's Team Leader for Water Services, Kelly McKague also warned residents of the harm these products can do.

"The problem with the wipes is that they do not break down the way that paper does. Essentially what happens, is they retain their shape and strength and they don't dissolve in the water as paper does. As they travel through the collection system, they can get hung up on any burrs in the pipe or any misalignments in the pipe and they sit there."

While most residents would prefer not to think of the inner workings of the sewage system, McKague said that as the flushable wipes collect, they can cause blocks in the city's main lines, or even as far as a residential lateral line. While the city's crews saw a steep incline of the so-called flushable wipes plugging the city's pipes in 2020 - a time which McKague wryly refers to as the 'Great Tiolet Paper Shortage of 2020, the problem continues to persist, albeit not as frequently.

"We did see a fairly large increase them, especially at our pump stations. Our pump stations are monitored through SCADA (Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition). So we'll get an alarm called out saying that the pump has stopped working. We go there and we have to cut them [the wipes] all out and then haul them away," he said. "It's gotten back down to normal levels now, but it's still an issue, it always has been an issue. The best way to avoid that problem is to not flush the wipes and put them in the garbage."

McKague noted that the city is proactive in keeping the city's pipes clean and will regularly flush the lines.

"Our goal is to not have any calls coming in, [but] we try to be proactive rather than reactive. But we still see it in the lines and we are still seeing it in our wet wells. We are still having the odd pump problem here and there. So we do see it, we're just not seeing it as often as we did in 2020."

According to both the town of Crossfield and Airdrie's team lead for water services, there is the three-P rule to remember when flushing: paper, and...  one gets the point as to the other two things. 

And if there still is the temptation to use 'flushable wipes' and flush them anyways, it should be noted that a visit from a plumber to a private residence can incur hundreds of dollars in costs. 

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