Let′s ′beat the block′ by stopping to think about what we pour down the sink

19 November 2014

Let′s all stop and think about what we pour down the sink.

That’s the message from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) which is offering consumers some top tips to ‘beat the block’ and reduce the risk of their drain or a sewer pipe getting clogged up.

Prosthetic limbs, mini motorbikes, slippers, tennis balls and false teeth were among the strangest items fished from the sewers as water companies across England and Wales spent about £70 million clearing more than 300,000 blockages during 2013/141.

But the biggest pain in the drain comes from fats, oils and greases being poured down the sink and items like wet wipes, tissues and nappies being flushed down the loo.

Steve Grebby, policy manager at CCWater, said: “Seeing your home flooded as a result of a blocked sewer or drain can be devastating.

“But the good news is we can all play a part in reducing the risk of this happening by thinking more carefully about what we pour down the sink or flush down the toilet.”

Over two thirds of sewer blockages are caused by inappropriate items and substances finding their way down the sink or toilet.

The build up of these can cause giant ‘fatbergs’ and other blockages which can have a devastating impact, including thousands of homes being flooded with sewage every year.

In the end it is customers who have to pay for clearing these blockages through their water and sewerage bills.

According to CCWater research less than half of water customers know what they can safely put down the sink, loo or drain.

So CCWater is asking customers to remember these top tips:

ONLY FLUSH – pee, poo and toilet paper down your loo.
DON’T FLUSH – other items including wet wipes or nappy wipes; nappies and pads; cotton buds; tissues; plastic bags and wrappers; sanitary towels; plasters and chewing gum. Bag them and bin them instead.
DON’T POUR – cooking fats, oils and greases down the sink or drain. Instead KEEP A FAT TRAP or container in the kitchen to collect waste fats, oils and grease. Many water companies will provide you with a free fat trap.
DO ALLOW - small amounts of fats, oils and grease to cool and scrape them into a container or newspaper before binning them

Consumers who are still unsure can visit www.ccwater.org.uk or their own sewerage company’s website for more helpful tips and advice.

Table 1 - What’s lurking in the sewers

Sewerage company
(England and Wales) Sewer blockages per year caused by fats, oils, greases & other non-biodegradable items2 Strangest items pulled from the sewer
Anglian Water 30,000 Prosthetic leg; underwear; mattress
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water 24,000 Mini motorbike; 5ft soft toy; football goal net
Northumbrian Water 14,000 Shopping trolley; a dead cow; bicycles; false teeth
Severn Trent Water 37,500 Pants; piranha fish; The Muppets slippers; hundreds of tennis balls.
Southern Water 17,000 Dead snake; severed finger; cuddly toy
South West Water 8,500 Toys; large car parts; bikes; cutlery
Thames Water 50,200 Half a Mini (motorcar)
United Utilities 22,800 Bullets; a Honda motorbike; settee
Wessex Water 13,000 False teeth; jewellery; underwear; toys
Yorkshire Water 12,500 Wallets; mobile phones

1 Figures for 2013/14 supplied by Water UK.
2 These figures are an estimate provided by individual water companies.
The Consumer Council for Water:
• Was set up in October 2005 to represent water consumers in England and Wales
• Costs each water customer an average of 21p per year
• Gained over £1billion from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments
• Has helped more than 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about water and sewerage services
• Has to date secured over £18 million in compensation and rebates for customers
• Is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Government
• Has a committee for Wales and four regional committees in England
• Website: www.ccwater.org.uk
• Follow us on Twitter - @WaterWatchdog

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