This week sees a national light being shone on the scourge of our sewers – unflushable wipes. The BBC highlighted the problems that wipes cause on both last night’s edition of The One Show and this morning’s Breakfast programme, and from Southern Water’s point of view, the focus on this issue couldn’t come a minute too soon.
Each year we clear 23,000 blockages from the 39,000km of drains and sewers across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight which, if left, could lead to sewage backing up and spilling out of people’s toilets, sinks or manholes and into their homes, gardens and businesses.
On the Island there was a total of 729 blockages in the past year, totalling 145 tonnes of unflushable debris – the same weight as 11 double decker buses.
What’s worse, about two-thirds of these blockages are preventable, as they are caused by fat, oil and grease being washed or poured down the kitchen sink, or by unflushable items like wipes and sanitary items, being flushed down the toilet, instead of being put where they belong – in the bin.
Southern Water are investing £1.4million in a 5-year project to help people understand the devastating effect that internal flooding can have on people’s lives. The water company have teamed up with local councils to hold days of action in Newport and across the South, which have been great successes and have more planned in the coming months.
Tim Bagnall, Southern Water’s Waste Services Manager, said:
“Sewer flooding can be a really devastating experience for our customers, so we want to raise awareness of what we should and shouldn’t be putting down our sinks and toilets, in order to keep drains and sewers flowing clear.
“Our sewer pipes are much smaller than many people think – only about 10cm (four inches) in diameter, which is about the size of an orange – so the only things we can safely flush down them are the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.
“All other items, like wet wipes, sanitary items or oil and leftover food in the kitchen, should go in the bin rather than down the kitchen sink, and into drains and sewers.”
To date, the team has visited more than 19,000 homes in 760 ‘blockage hotspots’, visited 700 restaurants, cafes and takeaways and lifted more than 1,700 manhole covers to look for blockages.