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“Bin it” plea after turkey-sized clump of wet wipes blocks Essex sewer at Christmas

Friday 15th January 2021 14:48

A 5kg clump of wet wipes was pulled from a pumping station in Essex

A 5kg clump of wet wipes was pulled from a pumping station in Essex

Residents of Essex were served a stark reminder of the dangers of flushing wet wipes down the toilet after a clump of the “unflushables” the size of a roast Christmas turkey clogged machinery at a Thames Water pumping station.

The 5kg bundle of wipes, known as “rag”, was found tightly wrapped around a valve at Bowes Drive pumping station, Chipping Ongar, in the build-up to Christmas.

Engineers had to cut free and remove the blockage to prevent any of the machinery on the site getting jammed, which could have led to raw sewage overflowing into homes, businesses and the environment.

The UK’s largest water company has now asked customers to help prevent sewer blockages by putting wet wipes, kitchen roll and other sanitary products in the bin rather than flushing them.

Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said: “Products like wet wipes don’t break down in the sewers and can combine with fats, oils and grease to form fatbergs – huge, disgusting blockages which take a lot of time and effort to clear.

“The blockage in Essex was a reminder of how damaging these wipes can be to our sewer network and our engineers have to spend much of their time clearing them before they cause real harm.

“Many wipes say they are flushable when they aren’t, so our advice is to always err on the side of caution and only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper, as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink.”

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 information on the company’s ‘Bin it - don’t block it’ campaign.