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This World Toilet Day, think before you flush

November 16, 2022
Published In: Wastewater

​​​​​Edmonton – November 19 is World Toilet Day – a day to celebrate the lavatory and raise awareness of sanitation issues around the world. 

In Edmonton, we’re fortunate to have a wastewater treatment system residents can rely on every day. And by being careful about what we flush, we can protect that system, our local watershed and our home plumbing systems.

“Our message is simple,” says Cindy Shepel, director of operations with EPCOR Drainage Services. “The only thing that should go down the toilet is toilet paper. No tissues, no dental floss, no hair, no wet wipes and definitely no paper towels. Please put these items in the trash.”

None of these items are designed to break down fully in water, and they run the risk of blocking pipes in your home – leading to potentially expensive repairs. 

A list of the proper disposal methods for around two-dozen household items that are sometimes put down the toilet or drain is available at​

Protect Edmonton’s wastewater system

Even if these unwanted materials don’t manage to get clogged in your home, they can lead to expensive cleaning jobs and repairs along Edmonton’s drainage system. So far this year, EPCOR crews have responded to 1,850 customer calls about blocked sewer service lines, which connect homes to Edmonton’s 3,031 km sewer main line system. An average of 104 sewer main lines are blocked each year, with six in 10 of those blockages caused by items that are put into the system.

EPCOR operates 95 pumping stations across the city that move wastewater to the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant. Each station is cleaned around once a year, with eight stations near highly populated neighbourhoods cleaned multiple times a year due to extra build-up of fats, oils, grease and foreign materials.

“It takes a crew of three people an entire day to clean each station, and two more people to vacuum out the debris,” Shepel says. “It’s an unpleasant, but highly necessary job to keep Edmonton’s wastewater moving.”

Protect the North Saskatchewan River

The final stop on the journey is the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats around 265 million litres of wastewater a day, before returning water to the North Saskatchewan River. Part of the treatment process includes removing grit and debris – with almost 8,000 lb of material disposed of every day – heavier than a fully loaded Ford F-150 pickup truck. Some of the most unusual items found during this process have included:

  • ​Cables, lumber, parts of a ladder, pipes and a 200-foot long climbing rope
  • Cash, credit cards, phones, jewelry
  • Underwear, clothing, shoes, rags and pillow cases

Flushable products not so flushable

In recent years, a number of single-use consumer products, such as wipes, have been marketed as “flushable.” However, a 2019 study by Toronto Metropolitan University of 23 “flushable” products foun​d that not one broke down or moved safely through a sewer system test. The study also found that many wipes contain synthetic fibres, such as plastic, that can harm watersheds and damage sanitation equipment. The authors estimated that $250 million is spent annually across the country to unblock equipment due to the flushing of wipes and other non-flushable materials.

“Not all paper is created equal, and science has confirmed it,” Shepel says. “Please help keep our city’s wastewater system operating smoothly and our watershed healthy. Think before you flush.”

For more facts and tips about what to flush and not to flush, visit​.

For more information, please contact:
EPCOR Media Relations

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