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University of Alaska asks students to please not flush their socks

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:05 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Somebody is socking it to the toilets at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and campus maintenance officials are not amused.

Hundreds of socks have been flushed at the UAF Fine Arts Complex since December, creating havoc on the building’s sewer system. Maintenance Superintendent Bill Cox figures the stray socks have caused at least $15,000 in equipment damage and labor costs.

It’s a puzzling problem, and campus officials admit they don’t know what’s behind it.

Cox said unusual things end up in sewer drains all the time. But the wave of socks has come at an alarming rate — the maintenance staff has a 30-gallon bucket that’s nearly full of socks retrieved from the system. The socks are mainly children’s sizes, and Cox said the strange habit must be costing a fortune.

“We just can’t imagine what someone’s doing,” Cox said.

The socks are being flushed on the lower level of the Fine Arts Complex. They’re making it through the toilet but are getting stuck in the pump motors at a lift station where sewage is pumped to another level. Although a catch was installed, enough socks have showed up that it regularly overflows.

Maintenance workers posted signs in bathrooms last week asking people not to flush socks. It didn’t slow things down — about 40 more socks showed up in the next few days.

Cox said maintenance workers will continue to routinely check the system. He isn’t sure what else can be done to stop the problem.

“You can’t put cameras in the bathrooms,” Cox said. “How’s that going to work? We’re just kind of at a loss.”

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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