Paper towels cause stink
First Published 3/20/2013
By Aascot Holt
Staff News Writer
If students walked through the campus mall the morning of Jan. 14, they probably walked through raw sewage.
The sewer system leading from the PUB towards the campus mall backed up in the wee hours of the morning and flowed out onto the sidewalk. Bob Heston, plumbing lead for EWU, said, “Before anybody realized what was happening, … pedestrian traffic from the mall to the PUB was travelling through raw sewage. … Those who travelled through the mess took it home on their shoes, clueless.”
The problem was so immense that the EWU Plumbing Department had to call in the city to use their heavy equipment. Video footage from the City of Cheney’s machinery confirmed Heston’s theory that paper towels in the sewer system caused the incident. He says students use them on toilet seats to protect themselves while using the restrooms in the PUB because there are not any normal, tissue seat covers available in the building.
The expense for this fix was about $450.
On Jan. 24, students may have smelled something different while eating lunch at Baldy’s. Seven toilets overflowed in the men’s and women’s bathrooms just outside Baldy’s. The cause was also paper towels used as toilet seat covers, said Heston. This incident cost EWU another $250.
Five more overflows and stoppages occurred from Jan. 25 to Feb. 5 in the PUB alone. These incidents cost the university over $100 each, and every one is blamed upon the flushing of objects that just are not meant to be flushed. Heston said it is during these overflows that he feels the most sorry for custodians, who are left to clean entire bathroom floors covered in raw sewage.
Paper towels, tampons, tampon applicators, packaging, rags and shop towels are the most common reasons for sewage issues on campus along with the occasional cellphone, said Heston. He said since the signs stating not to flush feminine products have been removed from the PUB by student request, the problem has gotten worse.
Heston said, “I don’t know why we can’t educate our students on what can and cannot go down a toilet.”
He said his department of just three are responsible around the clock for all the plumbing in 56 buildings and three-and-a-half miles of steam tunnel and simple problems like this disrupt their scheduled work. “It’s a huge inconvenience for us,” Heston said.
Heston said that he has tried to convince his supervisors to have the PUB budget for toilet seat covers to minimize cost, cut down on wasted labor and address public health and safety issues for everyone at EWU. He has been met with disapproval thus far. He said, “The students have the power to provide the PUB with seat covers,” and recommended trying to work with the ASEWU.
Pranks are done on toilets that result in overflows or backups at least once a month, said Heston, who has 12 years of experience with EWU. His department gets called about 10 times per week to solve toilet issues around campus, hindering his regularly scheduled work.
Students can help mitigate these problems by not flushing objects that should not be flushed. Heston said he believes this would help the problems almost entirely. He recommended using a couple strips of toilet paper on the seat if a student or faculty member is concerned about using the toilets in the PUB.