As toilet paper flies off shelves, pipe clog calls are up since start of pandemic

Roanoke Valley News

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — We’re starting to see it again, toilet paper disappearing from store shelves.

With that, folks who aren’t able to get their hands on the hot commodity may resort to alternative options, but these options aren’t meant to be flushed down the toilet.

Since the start of the pandemic, Levyous Vancott with Salem’s Water and Sewer Department says calls to fix pipe clogs have gone up 60%.

“Anytime we have to cut through a sewer, we’re exposed to more than COVID-19,” Vancott said. “We’re exposed to body waste. We’re exposed to hepatitis.”

The culprits of some of the clogs Vancott has seen might shock you.

“Newspapers, paper towels,” Vancott listed off the top of his head.

One alternate to toilet paper is flushable wipes, but too much of them, Vancott says, causes clogs and his team to fix the problem.

“It could be two or three o’clock in the morning, we get a call,” Vancott said, clearly speaking from experience. “We have to get up; we have to go and make sure this water system is running freely for the community.”

There’s an added sense of urgency to get water flow back up and running to water neighborhood, business, or any building in general because we need water running now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You need the water to take a shower. You need the water to keep you hands clean, so if the water system is cut off, the city’s going downhill from here,” Vancott said.

The increased calls isn’t the main concern, according to Vancott; they get calls for other things. It’s why these specific calls are being made that bothers Vancott and his team.

They’re urging folks, not just in Salem, to watch what you flush and how much of it you’re flushing. They want all of us to get through this pandemic together, with water running through our pipes.

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