The COVID clog: how toilet paper shortage is leading to clogged sewers


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The City of Lynchburg is lifting various fines and penalties at this time, including allowing for free parking at various lots downtown and not shutting off water for failure to pay the bill.

Lynchburg Water Resources will not shut off any customer’s water for about the next two months, until at least May 15. Officials say they are also waiving late fees.

It’s one of many messages the department is trying to get out at this time.

“We know that people are concerned about their families right now,” said Mari Smallshaw, the Public Information Officer for Lynchburg Water Resources, “and the last thing they want to worry about right now is access to safe, clean drinking water.”

She emphasized that the water is safe to drink.

“The EPA and the CDC have said that COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water.”

Smallshaw says she’s noticed people stocking up on bottled water, so much so that supermarkets are limiting how much customers can buy.

“No need to hoard the bottled water,” she said. “Your tap water is perfectly clean and safe.”

Stores are also limiting toilet paper purchases. Many stores are out of toilet paper with only wipes left on the shelves.

“Well with the toilet paper shortage everyone’s upset about,” said Steven Dunn, the Assistant Superintendent of Water Waste at Lynchburg Water Resources, “we’re just trying to get the word out that the only things that go down your toilet are pee, poop, and toilet tissue. No flushable wipes. No hand sanitizing wipes.”

He says those should be thrown in in the trash.

Dunn says they’ve recently been seeing an increase in sewer clogs from so-called flushable wipes, which are technically flushable but don’t break down like toilet paper.

“The sewer blockages cause overflows, which means the sewage gets out of our system.”

Much of the sewage that overflows out of the system ends up in the James River.

While they won’t be shutting water off for non-payment, they still encourage you to pay your bills. For the sake of social distancing, they recommend paying by mail or online.

It’s one of many steps the city is taking to offer a little relief.


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