Top of main content

Unflushables clog up machinery at sewage works

Thursday 2nd April 2020 12:00

The rag found at Beddington sewage works

This grim photo shows why wet wipes, kitchen roll and other “unflushables” should not be put down the toilet.

Engineers at Beddington sewage works in Croydon have removed three huge blockages from the inlet filter screens at the site in just three weeks. Normally it takes two to three months for such build-ups to appear.

Many shoppers have been bulk-buying toilet roll as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving others turning to alternatives. But Thames Water is reminding people not to flush wet wipes, kitchen roll, tissues or newspaper. Instead, they should be thrown in the bin.

As well as clogging up sewage plant machinery, unflushable items, which also includes nappies and sanitary products, don’t break down in pipes like toilet paper and can combine with fats, oils and grease to create fatbergs – huge, solid masses which are difficult to clear and can cause raw sewage to build up and flood homes, businesses and the environment.

Adrian Wallis, Beddington sewage works manager, said: “Normally we only need to jet wash the inlet screens every two to three months. Last month alone we did it three times.

“We appreciate and understand everyone is using wipes more and washing their hands a lot more as recommended. But, please remember, the only things that should be flushed are the 3Ps: poo, pee and toilet paper.

“Wipes and things like kitchen roll if used instead of toilet paper can’t go down the loo. As nasty as it sounds, if people do use them as a last resort they need to put them in a bin and dispose of them safely.”

People working in the water and sewerage industry have been identified by the government as key workers. This means Thames Water staff, who cannot fulfil their roles from home, are required to be out working in roads, at water and sewage treatment sites and in the company’s control centre offices, in line with official health advice.

Beddington sewage works treats the wastewater of 405,000 people in Croydon, Thornton Heath and Carshalton. The site produces around 80 per cent of its electricity by converting biogas from sludge.

On average, Thames Water spends £18 million every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers, unclogging five house blockages and removing 30 tonnes of material from just one of its sewage treatment works every day.

Find out more on how to help protect the sewer network.

A dedicated coronavirus webpage has also been set up for customers to find out how to reschedule house visits if they feel unwell, as well as the full range of support options for those who need help paying their water bill.