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Masks down the toilet lead to sewer blockages, costs Prince Albert at least $1K in cleanup

Click to play video: 'Masks down the toilet lead to sewer blockages, costs Prince Albert at least $1K in cleanup' Masks down the toilet lead to sewer blockages, costs Prince Albert at least $1K in cleanup
WATCH: Prince Albert is reminding residents not to flush masks down the toilet after two costly sewer blockages were likely caused by dumped PPE. – Mar 18, 2021

The City of Prince Albert is reminding residents to check what they flush after masks stuck in the sewer “likely” caused two blockages amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The stinky situation started about a week ago, according to the city’s water and sewer manager Geoff Soderberg.

Read more: Saskatchewan launches Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccine delivery plan

Masks going down the drain are collecting in the sewers, he said, and they likely caused two sewer blockages.

“The most recent one we had was actually a really big pipe that collected a lot,” said Soderberg.

Those blockages cost Prince Albert at least $1,000 to clean up, he said.

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While some masks are disposable, Soderberg said that doesn’t mean they’ll flow smoothly through the sewer.

“It does not degrade, it flows and it’s like anything else, like paper towel, clothes, stuff like that just does not break down like toilet paper does,” he explained.

Click to play video: 'Residents collect more than 1,200 discarded face masks off Lethbridge streets' Residents collect more than 1,200 discarded face masks off Lethbridge streets
Residents collect more than 1,200 discarded face masks off Lethbridge streets – Mar 15, 2021

Global News reached out to other Saskatchewan cities. Both Saskatoon and Regina said they have not had an issue with masks in the sewers.

But in Saskatoon, more mask litter is being left on trails. The Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) said it’s seeing more PPE being left behind on trails, especially now that snow is melting.

“I think people are a little more hesitant to pick it up as well,” said Amy Wall with the authority.

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“Normally we have more of those good Samaritans who pick up trash when they see it but it’s always a little more hesitant when we’re having something like coronavirus around.”

The authority has a regular clean up campaign that gives people and groups protective gear and tools to help tidy the trail.

Read more: Regina drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic open for people aged 60 to 69

For anyone just out for a walk, it said trash cans are available, but if you aren’t near one to just pocket your mask or other litter.

As for Prince Albert, the message from the city is clear.

“Please do not put anything besides toilet paper down the toilet,” Soderberg said.

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