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Top ten weird things found in Okanagan and Shuswap septic tanks

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OKANAGAN - From dentures to hammers, you might be surprised at what gets lost down the toilet — and later found by your local waste management professional.

After a woman in Salmon Arm was miraculously reunited with her engagement ring and other jewelry (flushed down the toilet years ago by her two-year-old son) we wondered: What other unusual items turn up amongst the expected contents of Okanagan septic tanks?

Jacob Starnyski of Reliable Septic in Salmon Arm was the guy who found the long-lost missing jewellery mentioned above — but that’s not all he’s found on the job.

“It’s hard to think of all the different things you find. Probably once every couple months you’ll find something weird,” Starnyski says.

Patrick Lawrence of Le Pew Septic Service also comes across “stuff that shouldn’t be there” and says septic guys have lots of tales to tell. After hearing about some of the things they’ve found, we can attest to that statement.

Here’s a list of septic surprises from local tanks that will surprise, and possibly disgust you.

1. Cell phones

Not actually that surprising, when you really think about it. People tend to take their cell phones almost everywhere these days, including the bathroom. Unfortunately, accidents happen, and both Starnyski and Lawrence say they’ve come across lost cell phones over the years.

2. Dentures

This was one one of the oddest, and definitely freakiest, items Starnyski has found in his career.

“It was crazy. What happens with sewage is it stains everything black so the teeth were pitch black with a bit of white on the teeth. It was just terrifying looking.”

3. Tools

You could probably fashion a pretty handy tool kit with all the screw drivers and drills Lawrence has pulled out over the years. He’s even found shovels emerge while pumping septic tanks.

4. A small, silver bell

Starnyski found it in the septic tank of an elderly woman’s home.

“She would ring the bell when she needed service from her caretaker,” he says. “I got that back for the family.”

5. A tent pole

How it got down there, Starnyski will never know.

“It was about three feet long,” he says. “I thought that was a bit strange.”

6. Condoms

Possibly the only thing more awkward to watch a stranger pump out of your septic tank than the usual substances.

7. Plugs

They’re supposed to block the drain, but sometimes, bath tub and sink plugs find their way down the toilet.

8. Baseball

Once, while responding to a call from a campground, Starnyksi found a baseball stuck in the septic line.

9. Frogs

Just imagine a pair of beady eyes blinking back at you from the depths of a septic tank. Now imagine worms and spiders dangling in the darkness. All in a days work for your neighbourhood septic pumper.

10. Tree roots

“If roots enter in a line or through a crack or the lid to the tank they can grow from the inside out and be a huge ball of roots,” Starnyski says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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