New Zealanders' flushing of wipes is putting our wastewater systems at risk of dangerous widespread blockages.
Water New Zealand technical manager Noel Roberts says he's pleading with people not to flush wet wipes, paper towels, tissues or anything other than pee, poo and toilet paper down the toilet.
"There has been a massive increase in the number of wastewater pipe blockages and if the current rate of blockages continues it puts wastewater staff at risk, this could easily lead to wastewater utilities not being able to keep up with clearing blockages.
"Quite simply, there is a limited number of people able to operate the equipment required to clear blockages. If their bubble of protection is compromised with extended exposure and the big spike in blockages continues, this may lead to many householders finding themselves unable to flush their toilet or drain water from basins and sinks after hand washing."
He says there have been numerous cases around the country of wipes getting stuck in pump stations causing blockages.
"A well as the obvious health risks to the community from blocked toilets and sewage pipes overflowing in the current environment, the increased blockages are posing a real risk to frontline emergency wastewater staff.
"Councils and utilities are trying to operate on skeleton emergency staff in order to keep workers as safe as possible and help halt the spread of the virus.
"But there's been a major increase in toilets being used as rubbish bins for all sorts of cleaning material and this has become a nightmare for operators.
"Products other than toilet paper contain plastics that give them strength, these often don't break up in the sewer networks."
He says that unlike other countries, there is no shortage of toilet paper in New Zealand, so there is no need to resort to other products. If they are used please bin them, don't flush them.
"Wet wipes have always been a costly headache for wastewater operators but the increased flushing of them due to Covid-19 has made the problem way worse."
Water New Zealand is a national not-for-profit organisation which promotes the sustainable management and development of New Zealand's three waters (drinking water, wastewater and storm water).
Water New Zealand is the country's largest water industry body, providing leadership and support in the water sector through advocacy, collaboration and professional development. Its 1800 members are drawn from all areas of the water management industry including regional councils and territorial authorities, consultants, suppliers, government agencies, academia and scientists.