As supermarkets continue to struggle to meet an unprecedented demand for toilet paper, the Wagga council is concerned residents flushing popular substitutes into the wastewater system could lead to blockages.
The council has taken to social media to urge the community not to flush paper towel, tissues, 'flushable' wipes or any items other than toilet paper down their toilet.
Council commercial operations director Caroline Angel said while it would take some time to fully see the effects of misuse of the system, there had already been an increase in blockages over the past week.
Sewer/stormwater maintenance engineer Bikash Paudel said items that may seem like a workable alternative to toilet paper have serious impacts to the sewerage system.
"If you put toilet paper in water.. it'll break down pretty quickly, but that won't happen with paper towels or facial wipes or wet wipes, baby nappies, baby wipes and things like that," he said.
Mr Paudel said in Sydney, millions of dollars a year were spent on clearing 'fatbergs' from the system, congealed mounds of non-biodegradable solid matter and fats.
He said one of the biggest issues was 'flushable' wipes, which despite their branding do not break down in the system.
"When the fats and these so-called flushable wipes intermingle... it's like a snowball," he said.
"They form bigger and bigger and they definitely don't break down in our sewer system."
Mr Paudel said these fatbergs interfere with the pump systems, causing blockages that pose a major hygiene risk to Wagga residents.
"First and foremost, the health of even the individual who is flushing those wipes would come into some sort of danger," he said.
Ms Angel said the financial and health implications of increased blockages would be serious.
"We have to bring in cranes, it's a significant cost not to mention the high risk to the council employees who have to actually clean up and work in this environment," she said.
"It's additional protective wear, it's additional vaccinations, it's all sorts of things that we have to put in place to make sure staff are safe, and it's not a pleasant job to be undertaking.'"
She said the council was considering the possibility of increasing waste bin collections.
Mr Paudel said now was a good time to remind people to always be mindful of what they were putting in the system, with chokes, blockages and fatbergs already occurring in Wagga before the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
He warned the community to be mindful of the fats they put down the drain as well as what they flush.