Paper Towels Clog Trotter Pipes

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

From Wednesday to Friday of last week, the Trotter bathrooms were shut down because of a blocked sewer line, costing the college thousands in maintenance. The culprit? Paper towels that should never have been flushed.

Director of Facilities Stu Hain wrote the Gazette in an e-mail: “That line is in the lawn and under sidewalks between Trotter and Beardsley where all the digging has been happening… we tried to clear the blockage with a special pressurized water injector the Borough of Swarthmore loaned us. That did not work leading us to believe the old pipe (probably as old as Trotter) collapsed.”

Ralph Thayer, Director of Maintenance, reported that his team managed to clear the blockage on Friday when they found “Paper towels piling up at a poorly configured tie in to a sewer main… not a material that we expect to find in waste lines.”

Thayer continued, “Our conjecture is that the more squeamish among us may line the seat of the toilets and either purposely or inadvertently flush the paper towels along with the expected waste. Having a contracted crew of three dig for two days is clearly not in concert with the austerity measures that have been imposed at the College. Paper towels should never be flushed down toilets. In this case they have cost us thousands of dollars.”


  1. Why would you line the toilet with paper towels when toilet paper works just fine? Maybe someone put something really gross on paper towels and didn't want to throw it out in the regular trash can, so they flushed it instead. ?

  2. oh uppercase J. Ye of so much faith. They may tell you that it's paper towels causing the problem, but search your soul: does that really make much sense to you? Doesn't a conspiracy involving reptilian humanoids ring more true?

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