Wiping Out Flushing Wipes


Tonnes of baby, cleaning , cosmetic and sanitary wipes are being wrongly flushed down toilets.

They are one of the biggest culprits of blockages in the sewers causing flooding to homes, pollution to the environment and costing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to deal with.

Northumbrian Water today unveils its latest tool to wipe out the flushing of wipes.

The water company’s ‘Love Your Drain’ campaign mascot Dwaine Pipe now has pet ‘Porcupines’ to help demonstrate the extent of the problem and get the message across to customers.

Porcupines are a unique innovation developed by Northumbrian Water’s Technical Support team. They are simple devices which are lowered from manholes into sewers for short periods to trap what has been wrongly flushed, before being examined and removed to prevent a blockage build up.

They allow the source of the wipes to be traced back to individual sewers to raise customer awareness.

Reporters and photographers are invited to attend a demonstration of the use of the new tool in the NE34 7 postcode area of South Shields which is a known problem area for blockages caused by wipes.

The facts tell a sorry tale:

  • Wipes are responsible for more than 3,000 blockages a year in the North East. That is almost a quarter of all blockages in the entire regional network.

  • Homes are flooded.

  • Rivers and the sea are polluted.

  • Clearing blockages caused by wipes in the North East costs almost £250,000 a year.

  • In the South Shields area highlighted, blockages occur weekly and cost more than £16,000 a year to clear. Almost 14% of all blockages caused by wipes in the North East happen in that post code area of South Shields.

  • North East treatment works remove 3,000 tonnes of waste a year wrongly flushed into the sewers, much of it wipes, which costs £400,000 to bury at landfill sites.

The porcupine demonstration will take place at 10.30am on Friday 31 October on Marsden Lane, South Shields, NE34 7HJ. There will also be an opportunity afterwards, if requested, for the media to visit Hendon sewage treatment works to see for themselves the amount of waste collected which has been wrongly flushed down the loo.

Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director Richard Warneford will be available for interview at the porcupine demonstration.

He said: "We really need our customers to help us to wipe out the flushing of wipes. People may believe they are flushable but they do not break up and they clog the sewers and cause untold damage.

"The statistics are shocking and, indeed may be even worse as wipes could well be responsible for many more of the blockages we clear as we don’t always find out what’s caused them.

"Blockages can have devastating consequences with people’s homes being flooded and the environment being polluted. It’s also an expensive business to deal with which results in unnecessary costs for the water company and our customers.

"It’s in everyone’s interests to clean up toilet use and stop wipes and other unwanted bathroom waste going down the loo – instead it should be put in bags and in the bin."

  • The porcupines are a heavy metal block fitted with an array of angled spikes and an attachment eye. The base of the block contains a channel to maintain flow and prevent the device itself blocking the sewer. It is lowered into position and held in place with a flexible tether and suspended from an adjustable bar across the manhole chamber.

  • Wipes snag on the porcupines spikes.

  • ‘Love Your Drain’ mascot Dwaine Pipe advocates: "only pee, poo and toilet paper should go down the loo."

  • A fun porcupine character has been created to help get the message across as Dwaine Pipe’s pet. This image will also be available at the demonstration.

Other causes of sewer blockages include fats, oils and grease, nappies and sanitary products, general waste, tree roots and collapse.

For further media information contact: Alistair Baker, PR & Media Manager 01913016851

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