A North East water company is throwing its weight behind the world’s first sewer blockage awareness month, and is urging customers to not use toilets as a bin.
Unblocktober, launched by the Lanes Group, is all about making small changes to people’s daily habits and only flushing the 3Ps – pee, paper and poo – down the loo, in a joint effort to help protect our rivers and seas.
Wrongly flushed items, such as wet wipes, are one of the biggest causes of blockages as they usually clog up inside the pipe or meet with forming fatbergs.
Fatbergs form when fats, oils and grease (FOG) are poured down the drain, and harden. FOG and items such as wet wipes, nappies, cotton buds, condoms and sanitary products that are disposed of down the toilet instead of being put in a bin, can lead to the sewer network backing up.
Richard Warneford, Northumbrian Water’s wastewater director, said: “We are proud to support the national campaign, Unblocktober, to help raise awareness and tackle the industry-wide problem of sewer blockages.
“Wet wipes are one of the biggest causes of blockages for us and we really need our customers’ help to wipe out the flushing of wipes. Despite wet wipes being promoted as ‘flushable’ they rarely are, as they may leave your toilet bowl when flushed but can clog up householders’ plumbing and can also cause blockages in our network of sewer pipes.
“Blockages can have devastating consequences to people’s homes being flooded and the environment being polluted, which is so saddening to see.”
Here’s a rundown of the top ten hot spot postal areas in the North East and a breakdown of blockages found in 2019:
- NE34 – Newcastle upon Tyne (313 blockages)
- NE5 – Newcastle upon Tyne (199 blockages)
- TS19 – Stockton-on-Tees (190 blockages)
- DL1 – Darlington (184 blockages)
- DH7 – County Durham (175 blockages)
- SR8 – County Durham (170 blockages)
- DL14 – County Durham (169 blockages)
- NE23 – Northumberland / North Tyneside (168 blockages)
- DH8 – County Durham (166 blockages)
- TS10 – Redcar and Cleveland (163 blockages)
Anthony Gray, area development manager for Lanes Group Tankering Division, said: “We’re very pleased to be working in partnership with Northumbrian Water to both support the maintenance of their sewage treatment assets and promote Unblocktober.
“The sheer amount of work we have to do to clean assets to keep them running for Northumbrian Water’s customers is a clear demonstration of the urgent need for us all to honestly reflect how we make use of the sewer system.
“Our systems collect most of the fats, oils and grease (FOG) plus the tens of thousands of wipes and other products that are wrongly flushed down toilets in the North East of England. But they aren’t infallible, and there is no doubt a lot of plastic materials dumped down sewers end up in waterways and then in our seas, damaging wildlife and the environment.
“We’re appealing for the public to work together with us to stop this damaging behaviour. The best place to start is to sign up to the Unblocktober campaign and make the small personal changes that prevent FOG and plastics getting into sewers and waterways in the first place.”
So far in 2019, Northumbrian Water have cleared more than 9,500 blockages within its 29,000 kilometres of sewer network across the North East.
The impact of blockages can cause sewer flooding to homes, businesses, and outdoor areas, as well as odour problems and can pollute the environment, potentially harming innocent wildlife.
Rachael Caldwell, area environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “It’s unbelievable the effects a single flush of the toilet could have on the environment. Unblocktober is a useful way to make people aware of what can be discarded down their lavatories and drains, and it’s important for everybody to think twice about the lasting consequences our day-to-day routines can have on the world around us.”