Don′t rush to flush


A new water company campaign unveiled this week (August 1) aims to wipe out the strain of blocked drains around the North East.

MEDIA INVITE: Reporters and photographers are invited to see what else gets flushed down the region’s toilets and sinks on a behind-the-scenes tour of Witton Gilbert sewage treatment works, near St Michael and All Angels Church, DH7 6TT, on Wednesday August 1, 2012 at 10.15am. Interviews are available with Richard Warneford, Northumbrian Water’s wastewater director.

A six-foot model of campaign character, Dwaine Pipe, will also be revealed for the first time.

Photographs and video footage of blocked sewers are available upon request.

Parking is available on site. Please confirm your attendance in advance by clicking here so protective equipment can be provided.

For wipes - along with nappies, pads, cotton buds and kitchen grease - are the most common culprits which clog up drains across the North East, as people put these items down sinks and toilets instead of into a bin.

Anyone who has ever experienced a blockage will know that it is an unpleasant and often costly problem to clear. It’s also a ‘pain in the drain’ for Northumbrian Water, who maintains the region’s 33,000 kilometres of public sewers.

This year the water company predicts that it will spend around £1.2million clearing more than 17,500 blocked drains and sewers. This cost is ultimately passed on to the customer in their yearly water and sewerage bill - showing that what goes down the region’s toilets and sinks really does add up.

Half of all blockages are expected to be caused by cleansing wipes and sanitary products being flushed down the toilet instead of being put into a bin. As a result, the water company will spend around £370,000 to send wipes, nappies, pads and cotton buds from its 414 treatment works to landfill where they should have gone in the first place.

So great is the strain on North East drains that the water company has developed a new customer education campaign to tackle the issue. The ‘Love your drain’ campaign centres around loveable campaign character, Dwaine Pipe, who becomes blocked and unwell when he is fed the wrong things.

Richard Warneford, wastewater director at Northumbrian Water, has worked for the company for more than 20 years, and has seen sewers blocked by many unexpected items over the years, from wipes to underwear and even a piranha!

Richard explains: “We have developed the ‘Love your drain’ campaign to help our customers after discovering that most people are unaware that items they regularly put down the toilet or sink could block up the sewers in their neighbourhood.

“The most common cause of blockages are items that claim to be ′flushable′, such as cleansing wipes. These products do not break down like toilet paper does when flushed and should always be put in a bin.
“Tackling sewer flooding and reducing blockages is one of our top priorities. The changing climate is something we can’t easily control or influence, but we can all play our part in ensuring we respect and look after the sewer network.”

Mr Warneford adds that although the ‘Love your drain’ education campaign is light-hearted, the message behind it is a very serious one. He explains: “By following our advice, customers can protect their own properties and those of their neighbours by reducing the likelihood of sewer flooding in their local communities.

“Blockages can also have a negative impact on the environment as they can result in polluted rivers, streams and beaches.”

People can spot Dwaine Pipe at a series of customer roadshows taking place this summer at supermarkets and shopping centres around the North East. A six foot, fibreglass model of Dwaine has been created by Byker-based modelmakers, The Model Group, for these roadshows. Director Ian Harrison, said: “We’ve been building models for almost 40 years, but Dwaine Pipe is certainly the most unusual request we’ve ever had. We had great fun bringing him to life.”

Further details of the roadshows can be found at and by following Dwaine Pipe on Facebook, or Twitter @loveyourdrain from the campaign launch date of August 1.

For further information please contact Leanne Clough on 0191 301 6733.

Love your drain roadshow dates

Date Venue Times
Monday August 6 2012 Metro Centre, Gateshead 9.00am to 2.00pm
2.00pm to 9.30pm
Tuesday August 7 2012 Prince Bishops’ shopping centre, Durham City 11.00am to 2.00pm
Wednesday August 8 2012 Cleveland Centre, Teesside 11.00am to 2.00pm
Thursday August 9 2012 Castle Dene shopping centre, Peterlee 11.00am to 2.00pm
Friday August 10 2012 Teesside Park, Middlesbrough 11.00am to 2.00pm
Monday August 13 2012 South Shields town centre 10.00am to 4.00pm
Tuesday August 14 2012 Morrisons, Consett 11.00am to 2.00pm
Wednesday August 15 2012 Dalton Park, Murton 10.00am to 4.00pm
Friday August 17 2012 Keel Row shopping centre, Blyth 11.00am to 2.00pm
Saturday August 18 2012 Cornmill Centre, Darlington 9.30am to 4.30pm

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