When obstructions occur in the wastewater treatment plant in Charleston, S.C., the city hires divers to submerge through 13 stories of sewage, where they fill a dive cage with as many wipes as they can find before the obstruction is unearthed.
“There is zero visibility,” said Michael Saia, the public information administrator at the Charleston Water System, of the divers. “The water is so dark and densely black that lights are completely ineffective. They have to feel around with their hands and try to locate the obstructions.”
Though there hasn’t been a recent increase in blockages in the city’s water system, the staff is monitoring the situation closely. “If our system was completely overwhelmed and all of our efforts to keep up with blockages failed, we’d have significant sewer overflows from manholes in the street,” Mr. Saia said. “It could create a localized environmental disaster right at a time when everyone is focused on keeping viruses at bay.”
The toilet and the virus may have a connection beyond all the toilet paper. In some coronavirus cases, gastrointestinal symptoms accompany respiratory ones. “There is a fecal-oral transmission route,” said Dr. Jeffrey Aronoff, a Midtown Manhattan colorectal surgeon, in a phone interview.
But Dr. Aronoff reiterated that hand washing remains the best preventive measure. “It’s not so much the way you clean your bottom. It’s what you do after you clean your bottom to make sure you don’t spread what was in your bottom,” he said. “It’s really washing your hands, because you spread things with your hands.”
That’s true no matter how you clean yourself.
In the United States, most people are still using toilet paper — and more of it than any other country, according to Dan Clarahan, the president of United Converting, which sells manufacturing equipment that makes toilet paper, among other tissue products. (“The majority of Americans are bunchers, not folders,” he said.)
For those seeking an alternative, there are many, though this is probably not the best time to buy one online; the delivery infrastructure is already overloaded with packages. You may, however, already have an option at home: the efficient, sustainable watering can.