Kitchener, Ont. engineer pushing to change Canada’s plumbing code


A Kitchener, Ont. The engineer is pushing to change the National Plumbing Code of Canada so that all toilets in every cabin have a trash can.

Barbara Robinson is the founder of Norton Engineering and said the move would encourage people to throw out non-flushable items like toiletries and wipes, which can clog sewers.

“Many, many, many facilities don’t have trash cans,” Robinson said.

The message may seem simple.

“Don’t wash away anything but urine, feces, or paper,” Robinson said.

But she said there is a big gap in the sanitation order.

“The National Plumbing Code did not address user requirements for women in women’s restrooms,” she said.

Robinson said the small bags used to move menstrual products from the stall to the bin are downright embarrassing in front of strangers or co-workers.

She said without private access to a trash can, people are forced to flush things down the toilet.

These products are a common sight at the Kitchener wastewater treatment plant.

“We see them at the facility,” said Trevor Brown, engineering, wastewater and infrastructure manager. “Tissues or something [like that] may damage the device.”

Items that cannot be flushed are caught by screens in the wastewater treatment plant, but can clog pumps, requiring an emergency shutdown.

“So you have something that should end up in the trash in your home or in public places, and you send it through the sewers, the pumping station and the treatment plant to the landfill. The costs are enormous,” said Robinson.

When it comes to flushing these items out of the house, it’s still taboo and the bill for repairs falls on the homeowner.

“That is her problem. They would call a local plumber to fix the problem at their own expense,” Brown said.

Robinson also wants to see bins in the men’s boxes for all non-flushable items.

The most current national code is the 2020 edition and the next edition will be the 2025 version, so Robinson doesn’t expect any changes until then.

She has since created detailed signs to hang on toilet stall doors. It includes information on what you can and cannot flush and an explanation of why.

Robinson said it gives people on the throne an opportunity to learn about problem and solution number one or even number two.