OC crews dealing with several clogged sanitary sewer lines

The scarcity of toilet paper supplies, a dilemma revved up by fears of the coronavirus spread, has eased somewhat.

That depletion of one of life’s necessities, though, is having big consequences for a specific municipal utility.

“Don’t flush this stuff down the toilet,” was the blunt message delivered Monday by Jeff Wenner, manager of the Oil City sewage plant, and Howard Faunce, Oil City’s public works director.

At least four clogged sanitary sewer lines in the city’s sprawling sewer system in the past week have caused manholes to overflow. The latest was Monday in the Oliver Manor neighborhood.

“The clogging up of the pipes started when the toilet paper shortage started,” said Faunce. “And even though they are few and far between, we want our citizens to realize the problem so it won’t get worse.”

City workers are finding a variety of materials in the manholes that have overflowed because of the clogged sewer lines.

“We are finding people are flushing half (torn) T-shirts, baby wipes, paper towels – anything you could use to clean your bottom side, they are flushing,” said Wenner. “Do not flush those. Use toilet paper, tissue or, if you have to use paper towels, quarter them up, so we have the right volume of flow.”

Wenner said he is sure lots of clog-worthy materials, including other items such as adult and infant diapers that have been flushed, have reached the city sewage plant in the West End.

“We have grinders at the plant if they make it that far,” he said. “But we really want citizens to realize they can’t do this because otherwise it will get worse.”

Faunce, who has 26 years with the city, said the current sewer line obstructions are the most he has observed in his tenure.

“On some occasions, we’ve had clogged lines. But I have never really seen anything like this.”

The unusual bulk of flushed materials will cause more than additional work for city crews as they clear out manholes and unplug sewer lines.

“Here’s what will happen – sewage will back up into people’s basements,” said Faunce. “So, it has to stop.”