SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The sewer district serving 1.2 million people in Sacramento County says people looking for alternatives to toilet paper threaten the system’s pumps and 4,600 miles of sewer lines.

“A lot of people right now are short on toilet paper so they’re looking for other means,” said Sacramento Area Sewer District spokeswoman Paige Bedegrew. “Flushable wipes seem to be one of those things that come to mind.”

So-called “flushable” wipes are the bane of municipal sewer systems because despite what the labels say, they don’t necessarily break down the way toilet paper does. Bedegrew says disposable wipes regularly clog the system’s 106 pumps and sewer maintenance workers are bracing for a spike in problems resulting from toilet paper shortages.

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Jonas Clark of US Trenchless says plumbers already face trouble with low-flow toilets failing to clear sewer lines. He says disposable wipes only make matters worse.

“They shouldn’t let (stores) sell them,” he said. “They should pull them off the shelves.”

Pending legislation at the state capitol would require honest labeling of bathroom products that can damage sewer systems. AB 1672 would create labeling requirements to help consumers easily identify which disposable products are not safe to flush down the toilet.

“This problem is completely preventable,” Bedegrew said.

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