Meet our sewer flushers

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Every day, more than 14 million people in London and the Thames Valley flush or drain 2.8 billion litres of used water for treatment. A team of 39 flushers patrol London's largest trunk sewers to ensure they keep things flowing.

In total, we clear around 80,000 blockages from our sewers each year. The majority of these are caused by cooking fats and oils, which congeal in the sewers forming a thick layer around the pipe. This prevents sewage from flowing and can cause it to back up, especially when products such as wet wipes and sanitary item – which were not designed to be flushed - mix with the fat and set hard forming a solid obstruction.

Danny Brackley

Danny, 26, from East Tilbury in Essex, has been a flusher for four years.

Job: Trunk sewer inspector, aka "flusher"

Marital status: Single

Previous job: Maintenance operative

Hobbies: Arsenal FC, Sleeping and drinking

The best part of the job

There's a sense of adventure to being a flusher, ducking and diving out of all those historic tunnels. I'm also really into the architecture down there. The brickwork is stunning.

Martin Wall

Martin, 47, from Chelmsford in Essex, has been a flusher for 26 years.

Job: Supervisor, aka "senior flusher". 

Marital status: Engaged to Trish, with six children, four girls and two boys

Hobbies: Chelsea FC, karaoke, especially Elvis songs, and travelling, especially to Elvis-related places like Gracelands

The best part of the job 

It's a great challenge being a flusher. Every day is different and it's a nice to provide a service to the public.

The worst bit 

Working in 'fatty' sewers across London. Trudging through the sewers where people have discarded cooking fat makes the job very messy and unpleasant. The fat mixes with sanitary items and wet wipes that also shouldn't be down there, and sets hard. Fat is very difficult to remove, and the smell is disgusting. Think before you put it down the sink!

What are the most unusual items you have come across in the sewers? 

False teeth. I don't know how they end up down the sewers, but I've come across hundreds of sets of false teeth.

Years ago I was working in Greenwich, when a lad I was working with found a hand grenade hidden down a shaft. Instead of doing the sensible thing and leaving it where it was, he panicked and threw it onto some grass nearby. As

you can imagine the bomb disposal team weren't too happy with him when they arrived.

Which myth would you like to put straight? 

Even products that claim to be flushable, such as wet wipes, shouldn't be flushed. They do not break down in the sewer and cause all sorts of problems

Vince Minney

Vince has been a flusher for 17 years.

The best part of the job is: 

The people I work with and the variation of work. Even though it's all sewer related, we're always working in different locations and meeting new people.

The worst bit 

The increasing amounts of fat down the sewers is quickly becoming the worst part of the job. We just have to take it as it comes down, I guess non of it's particularly nice in one respect.

What are the most unusual items you have come across in the sewers? 

Baby crayfish! A few years ago I was in a sewer in Hampstead and lifted up one of the flaps to see lots of eyes staring back at me. They look like small lobsters and are normally found in freshwater.

Which myth would you like to put straight? 

Just because you haven't experienced any problems after flushing unsuitable products down your loo, doesn't mean the items are safe to flush. It is likely that abusing the system will have caused problems elsewhere either for your neighbours or the environment.

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