NORTH TEXAS (CBS11 I-TEAM) - It's hard not to laugh when you hear the words "exploding toilet."
There are a lot of jokes, but this is anything but a laughing matter.
The CBS11 I-Team has learned a place we all frequent could actually be dangerous.
Gary Gipson of Gilmer began hearing his toilet flush in the middle of the night. When you are home all alone that is not exactly what you expect to hear.
"I didn't know if I had an unexpected visitor or what was happening."
Gipson is mechanically minded, so he lifted the toilet lid and removed a flushing system he found inside.
"I knew there was something broken with the flushing mechanism or the device inside."
Gipson turned to the internet and began researching.
He couldn't believe what he found— picture after picture of bathrooms covered in large shards of thick, white porcelain.
The backs of toilets cracked. Tanks in pieces. And, in one case, you could see a person's back covered in dozens of staples after what was clearly a severe laceration.
Gipson found all the images after searching for "Flushmate"— the name of the system he removed from his toilet.
On YouTube, one man is standing in a bathroom covered in porcelain pieces. He says, " After my son used the toilet…30 seconds to one minute later, a violent explosion occurred." He then pans the camera around the bathroom showing the aftermath of the toilet explosion.
"The porcelain jettisoned so violently across the room," he explained showing a piece that had pierced the wall.
Flushmate manufactures the flushing system described as a "pressure vessel" on the side of the black plastic device that sits in the toilet tank. It is designed to flush so powerfully that you do not have to flush twice.
But, Flushmate recalled nearly three-million of the devices after receiving reports of more than 300-explosions and 14-injuries.
Consumers sent pictures to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as recently as March 2016, showing what happened inside apartments, hotels, fire stations, and homes.
One consumer wrote: "I heard an enormous crashing." Another person called it a "booming sound."
"I shudder to think about my eight year old nearby," reported another complainant.
One man wrote " I required dozens of stitches."
Gipson reached out the Flushmate explaining the crack in his system and the unexplained flushing in the middle of the night. He described what he believed was the same situation others had experienced before their systems exploded; however, Flushmate told him it would not replace his flushing system because it was not part of the recall.
So the I-team took Gipson's Flushmate to Gene Humphries in Arlington. He has been a licensed plumber for 32 years.
"If something like this is out there, we need to get it off, " says Humphries. He says he see the systems all the time, and they require a lot of maintenance. He hooked a hose to Gipson's Flushmate and showed how water shot out of a four-to-five inch crack in the side of the vessel.
Humphries called Gipson's Flushmate "defective"; however, he did not believe the water pressure inside Gipson's home would be strong enough to cause the system to burst like those Gipson saw on the internet.
Humphries did say however, with a leak this size, he believed Humphries' Flushmate could explode in a public place where the water pressure is much greater because of pressure boosters.
Gipson did not take any chances. He installed a new tank and system in his bathroom. He still argues the model of his Flushmate should be on the recall list.
"It's a small bomb, that's why it is so dangerous."
CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT
If you have a recalled model, you have until September to take action.
Following several nationwide class action lawsuits, Flushmate agreed to an $18 million class action settlement.
You can click here for more information on the settlement.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE THE FLUSHING SYSTEM?
It's simple to find out if you have a Flushmate. Lift the lid off the back of your toilet tank. If you see water, you have a more traditional flushing system. If you see a large black vessel sitting in your tank, look for the brand name "Flushmate." The company manufacturers several models.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR FLUSHMATE IS PART OF THE RECALL?
To find out if your system is part of the recalls, click here.
The I-Team reached out to Flushmate asking why Gipson's model is not included and why the company believes the system is safe. We also asked what Flushmate is doing to ensure the safety of its other products following the lawsuits, recalls, and settlement.
A representative from Flushmate called us back and provided the following statement:
"In accordance with Flushmate's standard practice, a customer calling with a complaint on the 501 B Series Flushmate II would have been told that that unit would not be included in the Flushmate III recalls.
We encourage all Flushmate III owners to check their serial numbers by visiting the recall website or by calling the recall hotline #1-800-303-5123...
As a standard of practice, Flushmate does not respond to questions regarding litigation."
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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