Flushing Wet Wipes Damages Sewers and Blocks Drains
Last summer, Thames Water discovered a ‘bus-sized lump’ of over 15 tonnes of food fat mixed with wet wipes formed in the drains under London Road in Kingston-upon-Thames. The blockage was declared as Britain’s biggest ever ‘fatberg’ which was discovered after residents in nearby flats complained they couldn’t flush their toilets. It was reported at the time that Thames Water believed if the blockage wasn’t detected and removed as quickly as it was, it could have led to sewage flooding homes, streets and businesses.
What are fatbergs?
The fatbergs are formed when the fat which has been put down the drain hits the cold sewers and hardens, causing major blockages in the pipes. Wet wipes have been identified as a considerable problem in sewers as they cling to the fat until the fatberg quickly becomes out of control and the sewage is escaping onto roads, gardens and, in the worst cases, even flooding up through toilets and into homes.
Water companies in England and Wales state that the public needs to be educated into throwing items such as baby and make-up remover wipes into bins rather than trying to flush them away. Most debris coming out of the sewage system are wet wipes of some description which, when combined with grease flushed down the drains, create the ideal mixture for a blockage.
Thousands of wipes end up in the sewage systems every day, where they are removed using specialist equipment and transported to landfill. Not only are blocked drains an unpleasant experience for homeowners, but they are for workers too, which is why the message of putting wet wipes straight in the bin needs to be spread so the items take a direct route to the landfill sites.
Are wet wipes ‘flushable’?
In an attempt to spread the word, water companies and wet wipe manufacturers alike are addressing the issue of marketing wet wipe products as ‘flushable’ items. Toilet paper is the only tried and tested material which can be flushed down the toilet with no associated risk to the sewage systems. However, wet wipe companies tend to be far more lenient with the term ‘flushable’, marketing their products as such when in reality the disposal of wet wipes down the toilet can have very serious consequences.
Water companies are in talks with leading wet wipe manufacturers about a joint project to develop more detailed labelling so users are fully-informed about the items they are using and how to discard them in the correct manner. The long term aim is to find a biodegradable option which will solve all related blockage issues in our sewage systems. In the meantime, the primary initiative is to help customers understand the negative impact of getting rid of their wet wipes through our drains and drive home the message – bin it, don’t block it!
Our sewage systems serve an important purpose and are not designed to be a cesspit for household waste. Therefore, it is extremely important to look after your drains and consider what would be the best way to dispose of your rubbish before doing so in the incorrect way. If your property is experiencing blocked drains, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team here at Clearfirst.
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