Toilet paper has been in high demand since the coronavirus outbreak, so much so that stores have limited the amount people can buy

By Rachel DeSantis
March 20, 2020 01:45 PM

One California city is warning its residents to stick to toilet paper after a shredded T-shirt flushed down the toilet caused a sewer backup.

The city of Redding said in a news release that its Wastewater Management responded on Wednesday to a sewer backup at one of its lift stations after someone apparently used shredded T-shirts in place of toilet paper.

“Wastewater management was able to avert a spill but is concerned about the larger environmental and health ramifications presented by this backup,” the release said.

The city doubled down on the importance of flushing only toilet paper, despite the fact that it’s been in high demand and sold out of many grocery stores as people self-isolate and socially distance themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is crucial — at all times, but especially during the evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19 — for the public to refrain from putting anything aside from toilet paper down the toilet. If you should need to use anything aside from toilet paper, remember this important message: ‘Bag it. Don’t flush it,’” the release said.

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The city, which is located in Northern California, added that a sewer backup could eventually lead to another public health crisis as fecal matter could back up into showers, toilets and sinks.

“During this time of self-quarantine, unnecessary backups would not be able to be addressed as promptly,” the release warned.

Ryan Bailey, assistant director public works, told the Redding Record Searchlight that the clog happened on Russell Street, and that a resident called to say their toilet wasn’t flushing. He was unsure if it was that resident who’d flushed the T-shirts.

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“Anything and everything is flushable, but it doesn’t mean that it’s OK to put it down the toilet,” he told the outlet.

Toilet paper has been in high demand, so much so that stores like Walmart and Target have limited the amount customers can buy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As of Friday afternoon, there have been at least 1,057 coronavirus cases and 19 deaths in California, according to the New York Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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