The blight of wet wipes being flushed down toilets in the North East has been highlighted by a Northumbrian Water employee.
Wet wipes are a major cause of blockages in the sewer network, which can lead to flooding both in the environment and in people′s homes. Even those wet wipes that are labelled "flushable" contain plastics and do not degrade, instead contributing to these blockages, and should not be flushed.
Northumbrian Water reminds people that only the three Ps - toilet paper, pee and poo - should be flushed.
The company has 765 sewage pumping stations in its network across the North East and, when Production Operator Chris Hepple came to clean out one of those stations, he decided to do some maths to help illustrate the problem.
Using a trailer and some maths skills, Chris showed that the equivalent to more 750 packs of wet wipes were removed from that single pumping station over a six month period.
Chris weighed his trailer at 480kg before loading it up with the wet wipes that had collected in the Pattinson South sewage pumping station in Washington. He then returned to the weigh station to find the loaded trailer was now registering as 810kg, showing the weight of the wipes to be 330kg.
Determined to understand the problem further, Chris then weighed a number of individual wipes and found that the average weight was 5.5 grams, meaning the collection from the pumping station was made up of 60,000 wet wipes.
"I believe most packs of wet wipes contain 80 wipes, so that′s an astonishing 750 packs of wet wipes in one pumping station over six months," said Chris.
"If that′s an average for our 765 pumping stations across the North East, you can easily see that that′s more than a million packs of wet wipes a year, or close to 92 million individual wipes.
"This is a massive problem because of the contribution wet wipes make to causing blockages in our network and this is not only bad news for the environment, but it is absolutely awful for customers who are affected when flooding happens in their homes.
"We know this is one of the worst things that can happen in someone′s home, and we would urge all customers to bin their used wet, and to definitely not flush them down the toilet. Only toilet paper, pee and poo should go down the loo - everything else, particularly wipes, can cause problems."
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