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The Public Advised to NOT Flush Disinfecting Wipes, Paper Towels down Toilet – Throw Them Away instead 

State’s Wastewater Treatment Plants May get Overwhelmed, 

Consumers may face In-home Plumbing backups and Blockages 

SACRAMENTO – While the State Water Board and other public agencies encourage Californians to follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations to clean surfaces with disinfecting wipes to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it is important to discard those items in the trash, not the toilet. 

Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Even wipes labeled 
“flushable” will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment throughout the state.  

Wastewater treatment facilities around the state already are reporting issues with their sewer management collection systems. These facilities are asking state residents to not discard wipes in the toilet, but instead to throw them in the trash to avoid backups and overflow. A majority of urban centers are on centralized sewage collection systems depend on gravity and enough water flow to move along human waste and biodegrable toilet paper. The systems were not designed for individual nylon wipes and paper towels. The wipes and paper towels do not break down like toilet paper, and therefore clog systems very quickly. 
Wipes are among the leading causes of sewer system backups, impacting sewer system and treatment plant pumps and treatment systems. Many spills go to our lakes, rivers, and oceans where they have broad ranging impacts on public-health and the environment. Preventing sewer spills is important, especially during this COVID-19 emergency, for the protection of public health and the environment.  

Please do not flush disinfectant wipes or paper towels down the toilet. 

Businesses and Facilities Advised to Thoroughly Flush Water Lines Prior to Reopening

Post Date:05/21/2020 1:36 PM

Drinking water treated by the City is of the highest quality and will continue to be a safe and reliable source for all household and business use. The City’s water treatment processes are specifically designed to protect the public from all harmful bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. However, business closures during the Shelter at Home Order may have temporary impacts on water quality. 

As part of its standard treatment process, the City adds a small amount of residual chlorine disinfectant to act as a quality safeguard as water travels throughout the community’s water distribution system.  If a building or facility experiences extended periods of low or no water use, the residual chlorine may diminish and cause water stagnation or growth of microorganisms. To remedy this issue and restore water quality, the City is advising businesses impacted by temporary closures to thoroughly flush water lines if they have significantly or completely reduced water use.  Flushing water lines and can easily be accomplished by turning on all fixtures and letting fresh water run through the system before consumption or delivery to customers. Consulting with a plumber or someone familiar with your property’s water system may be required to determine adequate flushing duration.

More information on how to manage your water system, along with other useful information to consider when buildings are left unoccupied for a period of time, can be found at the following website:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Guidance for Building Water Systems

If your facility has been subject to reduced water demand and you would like further information, the City of San Luis Obispo Utilities Department can be reached by phone at (805) 781-7215.

For more information from the City’s response to COVID-19, please visit The City is committed to keeping our community informed.

To receive updates from the City regarding COVID-19, please register for City News e-notifications on the City’s website at or follow the City of San Luis Obispo on social media.

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