Engineers at Anglian Water in the UK have cleared a total of 40,575 blockages from the region’s sewer network over the past 12 months, 85% of which were caused by unflushable products such as wet wipes, as well as fats, oils and grease (FOG).
The water company has now marked the start of a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the problems caused by unflushables, dubbed Unblocktober, by revealing its top 10 sewer blockages to highlight the wider issue, which extends beyond the region’s sewer network.
The cost of removing sewer blockages over the past year amounted to just under £20 million (€22.4 million), with some more severe cases leading to sewer spills that can pollute homes, gardens and the local environment.
Launched by Lanes Group, the Unblocktober campaign is the world’s first month-long national campaign and awareness month aimed at improving the health of drains, sewers, watercourses and seas in the UK, driven by the British public.
“Our teams work hard all year round to finding and fixing blockages on our sewer network,” commented Rachel Dyson, programme manager of Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear campaign. “We have enough sewer pipe in our region to go around the world twice, meaning our engineers remove an avoidable blockage nearly every five minutes in a bid to keep our sewers flowing.
“Wet wipes cause real problems in the sewer network which can have a devastating impact on our customers’ homes and the wider environment. They are by far the worst culprit, but cotton buds, tampons and fats also cause problems too.
“Almost all of these blockages are entirely preventable, but instead lead to devastating sewage spills, can harm the environment and cost millions of pounds each year to clear. Ultimately this cost is added onto customers’ water bills and would be better spent elsewhere.”
A 2017 study found that non-flushable wet wipes potentially make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages.
“We are delighted to be supporting Unblocktober which is a campaign close to our hearts at Anglian Water,” Dyson continued. “Sewer blockages have been increasing in frequency in recent years and we estimate around 800 tonnes of unflushable items are being wrongly disposed of every week in the East of England.
“Although some of these images may look comical, this is the reality of what our teams face every day. This is why we urge people to not put anything down toilets unless it is pee, poo or (toilet) paper and all food waste should be put into food waste bins and not down sinks.”
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