Wet wipes being pulled out of a sewer in Eagle Farm. Picture: Urban Utilities.
Wet wipes being pulled out of a sewer in Eagle Farm. Picture: Urban Utilities.

500kg ragball in sewer thanks to toilet paper panic

HALF-tonne ragballs and major blockages are being discovered at alarming rates in Brisbane's sewer network, as desperate shoppers turn to non-flushable toilet paper alternatives.

Urban Utilities, which manages water supply for Brisbane, Ipswich and several other southeast Queensland councils, has reported a 30 per cent jump in 'foreign object' blockages between February and March.

The operator also revealed the Sandgate treatment plant recently fished out a record-breaking 500kg "ragball" of wet wipes, paper towels and tissues in just one day.

 

The increase has been blamed on the recent panic-buying of toilet paper, which has left some residents forced to use products that don't break down in the sewers and instead cause blockages and even large fatbergs in subterranean Brisbane.

The 500kg ragball at a Sandgate sewage treatment facility. Picture: Urban Utilities.
The 500kg ragball at a Sandgate sewage treatment facility. Picture: Urban Utilities.

The surge in blockages has led supermarket giant Woolworths to place signs on shelves nationwide, with shoppers being reminded to only flush toilet paper.

"It is a big jump," Urban Utilities spokeswoman Michelle Cull said.

"We believe that one of the contributing factors is that more people are flushing toilet paper alternatives such as wet wipes, paper towels and tissues," Ms Cull said

"Due to the ongoing toilet paper shortage, a lot of people are having to resort to using alternatives."

Foreign object blockages increased from 37 to 48 between February and March.

Ms Cull also warned that some products could back up pipes in people's own homes, meaning some residents could be hit with expensive plumbing bills.

Signs installed at Woolworths Ashgrove. Picture: Urban Utilities.
Signs installed at Woolworths Ashgrove. Picture: Urban Utilities.

At the Sandgate water treatment plant, the amount of non-flushable materials being caught by Urban Utilities' screens had doubled between February and March.

Ms Cull said March 29 saw a record 500kg ragball removed from the sewers.

"It took three of our operators to manually remove it from our system, and it's the largest amount of rag they've seen come through the plant in one day."

Wet wipes pulled out of a facility at Luggage Point. Picture: Urban Utilities
Wet wipes pulled out of a facility at Luggage Point. Picture: Urban Utilities

Ms Cull also welcomed supermarkets taking action to warn shoppers about not flushing anything either than "poo, pee or paper."

"We're really thrilled Woolworths have got behind the three Ps messaging," she said, referring to poo, pee and paper being the only things allowed to be flushed.

"It will really help us get the message out."

Originally published as 500kg ragball in sewer thanks to toilet paper panic



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