10 May 2013
Britain's two biggest water firms today warned people to avoid washing grease and wet wipes down drains - to cut the risk of their homes and businesses flooding with sewage.
United Utilities and Thames Water backed up their advice with harrowing images showing the vile consequences of the nationwide problem of ‘sewer abuse’.
Sewer abuse increases the risk of blocked sewers, which leads to thousands of people’s homes flooding with sewage every year.
Tony Griffiths, a United Utilities wastewater network manager, said: “There are only three things that can be safely flushed down the loo without danger of blockage – wee, poo and paper. Flushing other items risks a big plumbing bill, as well as environmental damage.
“With such a multitude of cleaning and cleansing wipes now being actively marketed as ‘flushable’, we felt we needed to do more to raise awareness of this problem with our ‘Can’t Flush This’ campaign.”
Rob Smith, Thames Water’s chief sewer flusher, said: “Sewers are designed to take only loo roll, dirty water and human waste. Nothing else. But sadly we are seeing more and more fat and wet wipes - which should never be flushed even if the packaging says ‘flushable’ - ending up in our sewers. That’s a big headache for us, but it can also lead to sewage backing up into our customers’ homes and gardens, which is utterly hideous.
“Our plea is for everyone to start heeding the sewermen’s war cry: ‘Bin it – don’t block it.’”
The two companies gave the warning as part of ‘Be the Start,’ a national campaign run by Start, an initiative inspired by HRH Prince of Wales and part of the responsible business charity, Business in the Community.
The campaign takes place during the month of May and sees participating organisations supporting and inspiring people in their journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.
Each month Thames Water, serving 14 million people in London and the Thames Valley, spends £1 million clearing nearly 7,000 blockages from its 109,000km of sewers. Half of these are caused by wrongly-flushed food fat and wet wipes.
Each year 7,000 Thames Water customers’ gardens and 1,000 homes flood with sewage. Half of these are the result of sewer abuse.
The picture is no different in the Northwest. United Utilities - which serves seven million people across Manchester, Cumbria, Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire - spends £20 million a year tackling 53,000 blockages, many of which are the result of fat and wipes being flushed down the toilet.
Sewer blockages also cause serious environmental damage, killing fish and other wildlife.
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