Fatbergs, Floss, and Flushed Unflushables

Fatbergs, Floss, and Flushed Unflushables

Today, we wanted to take a blog post to discuss something we see all the time: Flushed unflushables.

While not an official plumbing term, “flushed unflushables” is the perfect name for things that people flush down the toilet even though they really shouldn’t.

The biggest culprits are:

  • Baby/wet wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Personal hygiene items (dental floss, cotton balls, makeup removal pads, etc.)

On their own, these things seem small and of little consequence. But when these items meet up in your home’s sewer pipes and Calgary’s sewage processing facilities, they cause some big problems. That’s when people start hitting up the Google machine looking for some top-notch Calgary plumbers like us!

Wet Wipes? Really?

Now, you might be wondering about those baby wipes that claim to be “flushable”.  After all, they say on the package that they’re flushable so surely they must be safe… Right?

Wrong. Unfortunately, that’s a pack of dirty wet lies and they are not safe for your pipes. At all.

The fact is that these wipes don’t break down quickly or easily. As a result, they cause HUGE problems for Calgary’s water treatment plants, Calgary’s plumbers, Calgary’s sewage systems, and the pipes inside our very own homes.

What happens once you flush that baby wipe down the toilet is a sordid tale of grime and grossness, but basically it doesn’t disintegrate nearly as fast or as effectively as toilet paper – not even that thick triple-ply toilet paper.

That means that even though you may have seen the baby wipe physically flush down, it could easily be (and probably is) still lingering somewhere in your pipes. It’s likely just waiting for the next wet wipe to come along so they can buddy up to start forming 1 colossal clump of debris-caked disgustingness.

FATBERGS.

These clumps can get pretty bad.  In 2013, Britain’s Thames Water Utilities Ltd. removed a 15-ton “fatberg” of fat and grease encrusted wet wipes from London’s sewers.[1]  And while this may seem like a 1-off occurrence, the fact is that fatbergs of various shapes and sizes are floating in sewage systems all over the world.

Fatbergs aren’t just revolting; they’re dangerous. In 2015, typhoon season hit the Philippines as it does every year, but that year it wreaked a lot more havoc than normal.  This havoc was thanks to a nauseatingly large collection of fatbergs in the city of Malabon’s sewers, preventing the typhoon water from emptying into the gutters and sewers, causing some very severe flooding.[2]

Yet while Calgary has one of the best sewage systems in all of Canada, even our pipes can handle only so many fatbergs floating in their flows.  If you flush a wet/baby wipe down your toilet then you’re risking some serious issues further down the line.

a toilet pipe clogged by a fatberg

Fatbergs don’t always float – when caught in smaller pipes, they often just stick.

Paper Towels: A Threat to Pipes Everywhere.

Though they lack a catchy name, clogs from paper towels are no better than fatbergs. Yet while this may be a no-brainer to many people, to others this may comes as a surprise.

Paper towels are 1-time usage towels, created specifically for cleaning up wet messes. In other words, their biggest purpose is to soak up liquids. Toilets and sewage pipes are full of liquids. In fact, their sole purpose is to transport liquids!

So why would you flush super absorbent paper towels down pipes that are meant to let water flow?

Every time someone flushes paper towel, it soaks up as much water from the toilet bowl and pipes as it can. This makes the paper towel expand and, because they’re designed to stay intact when wet, they won’t begin to disintegrate for quite a while. Just like baby wipes, they sit and wait for more buddies to show up to the party.

A Quick Word on Flushing Feminine Hygiene Products.

Tampons and pads are much like paper towels in the sense that they’re made to be absorbent, strong, and not flushed down the toilet. They’re meant to soak up as much liquid as possible and to take a very long time to start breaking down.  Do not flush them.

The Dental Floss that Binds.

Imagine something going down the toilet that has the power to literally bind together all the flushed wet wipes, paper towels, hygiene products, and “other stuff” that get thrown into Calgary’s toilets each day? Something that seems innocent enough on its own, but is a total scourge when released into the sewage system.

This scourge is dental floss. Not only is it the tie that binds all the other debris in our sewage system, it’s also the indestructible string that gums up the impellers that keep all of Calgary’s waste moving to the processing facilities.

These rotating impellers are crucial to the operations of Calgary’s entire wastewater infrastructure – without them we would have pipes filled with stagnant sewage. Not a very pleasant thought.

Today’s dental floss is designed to be tough and not to shred apart into strands, making it a formidable substance to deal with when trying to remove it from the motor of a flossed-up impeller. In Toronto, this problem has gotten so bad that city crews are sent out weekly to repair gummed up impellers.[3]

5/5 dentists recommend using dental floss, but not one of them recommends flushing it when you’re done.

In the End, We All Pay for Flushed Unflushables.

Ultimately, all Calgarians are stuck with paying for the damage and headaches that flushed unflushables cause. According to the Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group (MESUG), around $250 million taxpayer dollars are spent each year removing these unflushables from Canada’s sewer systems.[4]

With all this in mind, here’s a 3-part tip for remembering what not to flush down the toilet:

• Toilets are designed to dispose of only 2 things: Human waste and toilet paper.
• Anything more is tempting fate.
• When in doubt, don’t.

Reading This Too Late?

Did you read this blog post a little too late? Maybe your little one just flushed an unflushable that’s now clogging your pipes? Lucky for you, we have some of the best plumbers in Calgary available 24/7 and we’re here to help! Contact us now.

Wondering what else you shouldn’t flush down that toilet? Visit the City of Calgary’s webpage for what not to flush down sinks, drains, and toilets.


[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/fatberg-dead-ahead-15-tons-slime-wet-naps-clog-london-f6C10843060

[2] http://www.ncheurope.com/en/nch-media/news-press-releases/fatberg-dead-ahead

[3] https://www.thestar.com/news/2007/01/10/dental_floss_gums_up_sewer_system.html

[4] http://www.cwwa.ca/pdf_files/2015Flushables/Orr.pdf

The Scoop on Poop in Calgary

The Scoop on Poop in Calgary

This article brought to you by Calgary plumbers Quicker Rooter Plumbing and Heating

poop Pooping in a flush toilet – it’s one of those magical properties of modern life that is also taken the most for granted.  Once that lever is pressed, the offending material disappears completely from existence.

Of course, it doesn’t really.  It goes down the pipes and joins the collective poop deluge we all contribute to each day.  But how large is this deluge being sent to our treatment plants?  No one seems to really know, so I thought I’d try to figure it out.  I went two different routes to find my end number to help make it more meaningful.

For the first method, I worked backwards.  As of March 10, 2016, Calgary’s three water treatment plants were processing 467,426 m³ of water everyday.  That’s over 460 million litres of water, enough to fill approximately 184 Olympic sized swimming pools.

The largest waste water treatment facility in Calgary, ejecting 364,250,000 L of treated effluent into the Bow every day!

According to a tour guide at one of the Calgary wastewater treatment plants, around 1% of all intake at the plants is solid waste. A lot of that is random stuff flushed down toilets and garburators, which is then caught by “the grit” (a heavy-duty filter system that separates the solids from the liquid.  Find out more about Calgary’s wastewater treatment system).

How much of that is human waste?  We can only guess, so I worked within a range.  I went from a conservative 10% to a generous 50% of solid waste arriving at the plants being folk’s previous meal.  A little elementary math later, it could be from 467,426L to 2,337,130L of poop, every day.  I split the difference and said 1,402,278L.  Unfortunately, this number required too much guesswork to feel meaningful (albeit educated).

So, on to method two.  How does my first calculation compare with how much people poop on average? The average person produces approximately 1 ounce of stool for every 12 lbs of body weight.  According to a Maclean’s article, the average Canadian female weighs 153 lbs, and the average male weighs 187 lbs – for a total average of 170 lbs.   So, a person weighing 170 lbs would produce just about .88lbs of poop a day (or 14.16oz).  But not everybody in Calgary is an adult! 28.8% are 18 or younger – average weight of around 80 lbs producing an average of .41 lbs of poop a day.

Per a density conversion website, 1 litre of poop weighs around around .88lbs.  Therefore, the average volume of poop produced a day by the average Canadian would be around a litre for adults, and about half a litre for kids.  With a population of 1,235,171 in our fair city, around 30% being kids, there would be around 1,045,179L of poop flowing to our water treatment plants every day – which falls in the lower end of the range of 10% to 50% of solid waste being feces established before (it would be around 20%).

Conclusion: we’re either flushing a lot of solids that aren’t poop into our sewers, or we poop at above average rates.  My instinct tells me the latter, as this is Alberta where we like to do things bigger.

I split the difference between the two and called it my answer: 1,223,728.5L of poop collectively weighing around 1,076,881 lbs. Roughly.

This is a caption

But now for the fun bit – how much exactly is that?

That’s enough to create close to a 1 metre thick layer of sludge on the ice at the new Rogers Place in Edmonton (and be altogether more appealing than what is currently on display).

That’s enough to crush around 119 Smart Cars!

It would fill 45 school buses.  Or about 2,786,961.25 16oz cups of coffee.

 

 

See Our Sewer Camera at Work

See Our Sewer Camera at Work

Sewer Cameras: So we can actually see the problem and solve it quickly. Your best value in time and money.


Sewer camera is best value for time and money.

Before sewer cameras became available, determining the location and cause of a pipe or drain blockage took a long time and could be very costly. If rooting out the problem was unsuccessful, the next step involved guessing the location of the clog, digging, and hoping for the best. Drain cleaning was much more difficult for plumbers.  Thankfully those days are over for us at Quicker Rooter Plumbers! I’m now able to see exactly what’s causing a clog and where it is within minutes – in a non-destructive way. My sewer camera is what lets me do this.

Benefits of Sewer Cameras 

Here’s an infographic displaying the benefits of using a sewer camera for a clogged drain over guesswork and excavation.

 

Infographic showing benefits of sewer camera.

How does it work?

The component used is a long, tough fibre optic cable with a high quality camera at its head. I watch a screen while feeding the cable down the affected pipe, winding and twisting it until the problem is found. This is a specialized and professional piece of equipment, capable of snaking through up to 200 feet of pipe straight to where it feeds into the main sewer line.  It also results in a high quality video that can be reviewed after the fact, or kept for personal files.
Check out an actual video of our camera at work right here, discovering a tree root that has grown into a pipe:


Once the blockage or problem is located, we have a clear, high quality, and colour image of exactly what we’re dealing with. A radio transmitter allows for the exact location and depth to be determined. What once took many hours of guessing (and potentially digging!) is accomplished in a matter of minutes. I can now see exactly the cause and nature of the blockage; what it is, how persistent it is, and most importantly what sort of equipment or action will be needed to dislodge it and complete the drain cleaning.

Not only is it possible to find major problems very quickly, but also to get a good view of the state of the pipe in general, locating any potential problem areas and easily determining what course of action to take next.

What would come next?

No clog is exactly the same and eliminating a particular blockage often requires specialized drain cleaning or pipe clearing action. The variety of potential stoppages causing a clog is a list without end: rocks, grease, hair, debris, food, paper material, flushed toys, penetrating tree roots, other kinds of growth, a combination – I’ve really seen it all!

Having such useful diagnostic equipment means I can decide on the most cost effective course of action, providing the best value to the client. At this point, there are many tools I have at my disposal to eliminate whatever the camera has found.  Rather than cycling through the equipment and hoping for the best, I know exactly which one to turn to without delay.

In the case of the video above, the camera showed us we were dealing with an ingrown root.  We knew to immediately turn to our rooter (or snake) with a cutting head attached, no guesswork required!   More difficult problems might require more sophisticated pipe clearing equipment, such as a power auger or a power jetting machine.  The camera lets us be in and out more quickly, letting you get on with your day, and saving you money. It has become one of our most important pieces of equipment! And is why we are called Quicker Rooter.  Our sewer camera and all our specialized rooter and drain cleaning equipments lets us solve your sewer problems more quickly and more cost-effectively.

Whatever the action needed may be, its only with the sewer camera that allows me to know. When it comes to finding awesome Calgary plumbers, we have the equipment and expertise to give you the best value for your time and money.

Furnace Cleaning Calgary—Things to Consider

Furnace cleaning should be done on a regular basis if you don’t want your heating system to be a breeding ground for bacteria and allergens. These unwanted elements can blow out of your furnace every single time it runs. This can be potentially harmful for you and your loved ones. Regular furnace cleaning can help prevent health problems.

Hire an Expert

Your best option is to get an expert in furnace cleaning. If you are a homeowner, there’s a high chance you’ve received advertisements in the mail offering to clean your furnace and improve the quality of your air ducts. There are several methods of cleaning furnaces and air ducts, depending on your preference as a homeowner and the equipment available. Most professional furnace cleaning Calgary companies use a special vacuum cleaner system that effectively dislodges debris from the furnace.

Cost

The cost of furnace cleaning can vary widely depending on several factors such as the location of the house or establishment, number of services to be performed and the configuration of the HVAC system. The whole process usually costs a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. If you think this is expensive, think about how much it would cost you if your HVAC system stopped working entirely and you are forced to have a new system installed.

Maintenance

Often, homeowners don’t think about their furnace as long as it is working fine. Once a problem arises, they call the heating company to fix it right away. Many times, problems such as a dirty filler occur due to poor maintenance.

Ideally, furnaces should be cleaned at least twice a year. Schedule a maintenance service with a furnace cleaning expert to increase the lifespan of your HVAC system and ensure that it is working at its optimum.

Consumer Guarantees

Under the law, companies or professionals must meet certain obligations when engaging in any service contract such as furnace cleaning and maintenance services. Consumer guarantees assure clients that work can be redone if in case a problem arises. No matter what the cost of the furnace cleaning service, you are covered by a warranty even without a written contract that says so. This is what you call “implied warranties”. Therefore, a contractor is legally required to use suitable materials and equipments, as well as the needed precision for work to be completed. It is a contractor’s responsibility to ensure good workmanship and fulfill contract requirements.

Whether you need your furnace serviced, or anything else in your home, Quicker Rooter has the furnace repair plumbers you can rely on.