March 14, 2024

Flushing Repair Costs Down the Drain

Washroom outages have become a pressing issue at Simon Fraser University (SFU), with sewage backups plaguing the campus. The culprit? Unexpected items flushed down toilets. Curious items found clogging our pipes include t-shirts, teddy bears and even drywall. But the most common item is paper towels!

In 2023 Facilities Services’ service desk received 130 service requests related to washroom flooding on Burnaby Campus, with 40 specifically mentioning drain backups. Recurring incidents of clogged pipes cost the university over $250,000 in plumbing and remediation work in 2023 alone. 

Why can’t we flush paper towels? 

Unlike toilet paper, paper towels will not fall apart in water. They are best used for absorbing moisture, which means they will expand upon flushing down a toilet. This could result in damage to plumbing and clogging the drain, and potential flooding in washrooms. Whenever using paper towels, always dispose of them in the nearest garbage container or compost bin. 

The only flushable items that our pipes are suited for are toilet paper and human waste. Even “flushable wipes” that claim they are biodegradable do not break down in the systems quickly enough and are not safe to flush.

If you encounter a washroom on campus that is out of service, please use the SFU Snap app to locate the next nearest washroom. To report a clogged toilet, please submit a Facilities Services request

Help us make washrooms outages from unflushable items a thing of the past. By working together, we can create a cleaner, safer campus environment. For more information go to Unflushables