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Plumbing problem: Kitchener, Ont. engineer pushing to change Canada's plumbing code


A Kitchener, Ont. engineer is pushing to change the National Plumbing Code of Canada so that all washrooms have a trash can in each stall.

Barbara Robinson is the founder of Norton Engineering and said this move would encourage people to throw out non-flushable items like sanitary products and wipes, which can clog sewers.

"Many, many, many facilities don't have trash cans," said Robinson.

The messaging may seem simple.

"Do not flush anything but pee, poo or paper," Robinson said.

But she said there is a major gap in the plumbing code.

"The National Plumbing Code did not take into account, user requirements for women in women's washroom stalls," she said.

Robinson said the little bags provided to take menstrual products from the stall to the trash are nothing short of embarrassing in front of strangers or colleagues.

She said with no private access to a trash can, people are forced to flush things down the toilet.

Those products are a common sight at the Kitchener Waste Water Treatment Plant.

"We do see them at the plant," said Trevor Brown, manager of engineering, waste water and infrastructure. "Wipes or anything [like that] can cause damage to the equipment."

Non-flushable items are caught by screens at the waste water treatment plant, but they can plug the pumps, which could require emergency shutdowns.

"So you've got something that should be going in the garbage at your house or in public and you're sending it to the landfill via the sanitary sewer system, the pump station and the sewage treatment plant. The cost is enormous," said Robinson.

When it comes to flushing these items from home it is still a no-no and homeowners will be the ones fronting the bill for repairs.

"That is their issue. They'd be calling a local plumber in to clear it up at their cost," said Brown.

Robinson wants to see trash cans in men's stalls too for any non-flushable items they may have.

The most recent national code is the 2020 edition and the next edition will be the 2025 version, so Robinson doesn't expect any change will come until then.

Barbara Robinson made these signs to hang on the doors of bathroom stalls. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)In the meantime, she has created detailed signs to hang on the doors of bathroom stalls. It includes what you can and cannot flush, as well as an explanation as to why.

Robinson said it gives people a chance to learn, while on the throne, about what may be the number one, or even number two, problem and solution. Top Stories

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