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COVID-19 pandemic poses problems for plumbers

With more people in the house and less toilet paper on store shelves, some people are flushing strange things down the drain.

MACON, Ga. — Aside from health care workers and first responders, there's another group of essential workers that are receiving an influx of calls during the COVID-19 outbreak -- local plumbers. 

While people are stockpiling and hoarding toilet paper, others have to find alternative ways to keep things sanitary, which is causing problems.

Jeff Wilbourne, Owner of Tommy Chauncey Plumbing in Macon, has seen an increase in house calls over the last few weeks, perhaps because Georgia's mandatory shelter-in-place order has more people under one roof than normal, or because people are flushing things they shouldn't be.

"Our job is nasty enough as is without this thing coming around," says Wilbourne. "Don't put chewing gum, or wipes, and feminine products down [the drain]." 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also released a statement encouraging Americans to flush only toilet paper down the drain. Other items, like wipes, can damage plumbing in homes, sewer and septic systems.

Credit: EPA

"Those wipes keep plumbers in business.They keep all of us in business, but people need to throw those things away," says Wilbourne. 

Homeland Security considers plumbers "essential workers" who provide public health and safety services to the community, but Wilbourne admits it's a stressful time to enter people's homes.

"You can't look at someone and tell if they're sick or not, just like they can't look at us and tell if we're sick," says Wilbourne. 

His guys are wearing gloves and masks, and practicing social distancing. He says some home owners are taking precautions, too.

"We've had customers that wanted to take our temperatures before we come in, and I can't blame them," says Wilbourne.

Wilbourne says if you are sick and have a plumbing emergency, you should tell your plumber before they arrive. Otherwise, you could risk them spreading germs to their own families and the homes of other customers.

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FACTS NOT FEAR | At 13WMAZ, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the coronavirus. To see our full coverage, visit our site section here: www.13wmaz.com/Coronavirus.

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