Kitchens are a source of fire and flood while bathrooms are a major source of flooding and water damage.

As the newspaper article below points out, it is very important not to flush solids down bathroom sinks or toilets. The drains in a condo tower will get plugged a lot faster than the city drains will.

Human hair, cat litter, paper towels, tampons, kitchen grease or any other solids should never be dumped down the sink or flushed down the toilet.

If you help plug up the water drains, you may be the one who will have the waste back up into your bathroom. Not a pleasant experience.

You can have bathroom leaks from a unit above you or from a neighbouring unit that is on the same stack.

It is important to have a plastic pail, or two, just in case you are a victim of a water leak or a flooding.

Also, if you live in an older condo, make sure that you have shut-off valves in your bathroom and kitchen and that they are in working order. You do not want to discover that they are seized when you need them the most.

Spare tiles
If you have had renovations done in your bathroom, be sure to keep a few spare tiles in storage. If the plumbers come in and have to break some tiles to get at a leak, you will want to have replacements on hand.

Don’t believe the wipe hype: So-called ‘flushable’ products clogging Vancouver pipes, costing millions
Postmedia News
Dan Fumano
13 May 2016

Devin Kiyonaga spends a lot of time thinking about toilets flushing.

“I can’t help but be passionate about this topic now,” said Kiyonaga, a Metro Vancouver project engineer. “As a joke, I’ll throw in my email signature, every now and then: ‘Think of me when you flush.'”

Kiyonaga is working on a new Metro Vancouver campaign targeting a problem that has recently made a mess of the region’s pump stations and 500 kilometres of sewer mains.

And if you see them floating around or tumbling around in the station where the sewage comes in, they kind of look like sheep.

The clogs are made of bundled-up masses of items that shouldn’t be flushed, Kiyonaga said, including everything from paper towels to dental floss, and one prime culprit — the so-called “flushable wipe.”

 PNGMetro Vancouver employees work to “de-rag” a clog in a Port Moody pump station.   Metro Vancouver

Now, Metro Vancouver wants to get out a message: Even if the product says “flushable,” don’t believe the wipe hype.

Crews at Lower Mainland pump stations call these balled-up masses of material “rags,” he said, or “sheep.”

“They’re kind of this big, white mass,” Kiyonaga said, “and if you see them floating around or tumbling around in the station where the sewage comes in, they kind of look like sheep.”

Kiyonaga said he has seen Metro staff remove single “sheep” as heavy as 25 kilograms, and large enough to fill a blue recycling bin.

He was assigned to the “flushability” file in 2011, shortly after one such clog caused a backup and flood at the Baynes Road Pump Station in Pitt Meadows. After the flood, crews had to truck 32 million litres of sewage off the site, the Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows News reported at the time.

Such messes are not only a headache for workers, but also a burden for taxpayers.

The Ontario-based Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group (MESUG), estimates that more than $250 million is spent each year cleaning Canadian sewers clogged by baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, and other toilet-incompatible materials.

MESUG spokesman Barry Orr, who has previously said Canadian taxpayers are “literally flushing away millions,” said this week: “We have been seeing an increase in capital cost to install grinders and screens; now the issue puts us into the billions of dollars we are spending.”

Last month, Metro Vancouver launched a program of “adult toilet training.” The “Never Flush Wipes” campaign aims to educate residents about what Metro Vancouver utilities committee chair Darrell Mussatto calls a “huge problem.”

“A lot of the industry is calling these things flushable. And they’re not, because they don’t break down,” said Mussatto, mayor of the City of North Vancouver. “The only things that go in the toilet are number one, number two, and toilet paper.”

B.C. Water & Waste Association CEO Tanja McQueen said: “It’s a growing problem, because there are more and more products coming on to the market now that are claiming to be flushable, but in fact are not. Right now there are no regulatory standards that define what we mean by ‘flushable.'”

That lack of regulation is a problem, said Kiyonaga, adding: “You could put ‘flushable’ on almost anything right now … you could put ‘flushable’ on a beer bottle or a golf ball.”

Kiyonaga, along with municipal engineers from across Canada, is part of an international effort to develop a global standard for “flushability.” The group is working on regulatory standards to be recognized by the International Standards Organization (ISO), which they hope could be used in Canada by the end of this year.

But the effort to achieve an ISO “flushability” standard was criticized this week by the leader of the association representing the wet-wipe industry.

Dave Rousse, president of the International Nonwovens and Disposables Association (INDA) said an ISO standard is “highly unnecessary” and “going to be too broad and too vague to really be effective.” The industry’s own “code of practice and the flushability assessment guidelines” are rigorous enough to ensure flushability, he said.

Rousse said the flushed products clogging sewer systems in Vancouver and around North America are not INDA-certified “flushable” wipes, which make up about seven per cent of the overall North American moist-wipe market, worth about US$500 million annually.

Rousse said Metro Vancouver’s “Never Flush Wipes” campaign was “misleading the public.”

But the message this week from Metro Vancouver’s Mussatto was: “Until we come up with a standard, and we can enforce what’s flushable and what isn’t, we’re asking everybody: ‘Just don’t put anything in the toilet that shouldn’t be there.'”

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