Water companies such as United Utilities in the North West are very determined in educating those living in their area to understand more about what happens when items are disposed of in the wrong way.
This is certainly understandable when you consider that United Utilities is expected to cope with a minimum of 40,000 blockages in the sewerage system during 2012.
The latest Consumer Council for Water statistics show that around half of all sewer flooding cases and three quarters of sewer blockages are due to the fact that householders put unsuitable items down the sink or toilet.
One campaign which has been well-received by the public is the What Not To Flush campaign devised by United Utilities. This scheme was created to encourage their customers to be more considerate of their drain pipes, by avoiding doing the things that often lead to blockages in the system.
In this day and age with many convenient products entering the marketplace, it is easy to get complacent over what should and shouldn’t be allowed to enter the sewerage system. These flushable items are not what this term would suggest and so can cause problems with the flow of wastewater down there.
A survey carried out by north west water company United Utilities last year revealed some worrying findings for households up and down the country.
They looked at many items manufactured by the leading hygiene brands and found that the advice on their products was actually misleading their customers.
With many products like cotton wool, make-up wipes and baby wipes the packaging described them as being safe to dispose of down the toilet, or did not contain clear advice at all.
This has only served to compound the problem of people flushing away items that simply were not designed to enter the drainage and sewerage system.
In fact, the knock-on effect of this has led to thousands of families experiencing drainage problems such as wastewater flooding caused by these kinds of pipe blockages. As well as causing havoc in homes, this also has an effect on the flooding of roads, while river pollution is another concern.
Regional wastewater network manager for United Utilities, Mike Wood, said:
“These products are the bane of our sewer engineers’ lives. There is a wipe for everything these days, but most of these products don’t break down like toilet tissue, and so build up and form giant plugs in our sewers and customers’ toilet pipes.
“They are directly responsible for thousands of incidents of sewer flooding, yet all too often, disposal advice on these products is missing or misleading.”
According to recent reports the water company is set to put money towards an investigation of the sewerage and drainage systems in Goole, a town that was victim to flash flooding during the summer of 2010.
The study is to cost Yorkshire Water £275,000 to complete as it is all part of pump improvements recommended by a report published by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
It was estimated that over 64mm in rainfall came down in within an hour resulting in widespread flooding of residential properties back in August of last year.
The water company admitted responsibility for the failed pumping station and so the study will form part of an assessment as to the suitability of the current drain systems in the town, with all pumps in the vicinity to be tested. Additional construction work on surface water sewers is being looked at too as they work together with the council.
Flood strategy manager at Yorkshire Water, Wendy Kimpton, said:
“No drainage system could realistically have been expected to cope with the sheer volume of rain which fell over a very short period on 3 August 2011.
“The subsequent flooding had a traumatic impact on many people in the town and it’s incumbent on all the agencies involved to continue to work together to minimise the risk of flooding in the future.”
Water companies are usually quite vocal when it comes to letting their customers know about the best ways to look after the drains servicing their homes. However, United Utilities is particularly active in the North West area and has a number of ongoing campaigns that highlight the problem of blocked drainage and how this can be avoided.
One of these campaigns is on their website and is aimed at parents. The Mums Know Best page is packed full of useful information to help mums and dads save time as well as money on maintaining their drains.
United Utilities is keen to point out that many bathroom products contain advice which is misleading to consumers. Research they conducted last year showed that everyday items like make-up wipes, cotton wool and baby wipes are being disposed of in a way that is contributing to problems for many households.
As these hygiene products are being disposed of down the toilet, this is adding to drainage issues such as clogged pipes as well as leading to the sewerage system being unable to cope. In some cases wastewater has overflowed into homes and gardens as well as flooding roads and entering rivers too.
Just before Christmas United Utilities reminded families living in the North West that they needed to think carefully before deciding to pour turkey fat into the drainage system.
This advice was offered so they didn’t face blocked pipes and huge repair costs when entering the new year. Hopefully, this time the usual million pints of fat was not disposed of in this way.
Regional wastewater network manager for the water company, Mike Wood, said at the time:
“Fat and grease cause more than half the sewer blockages we deal with every year. At Christmas, the volume of cooking fat entering the sewers goes up dramatically – which can spell big headaches for our engineers, and for households.
“When the fat cools, it hardens, clogging pipes and causing wastewater to spill out into streets, streams, rivers and even homes and gardens. And it’s not just our sewer pipes that suffer. Household pipes can get blocked too, resulting in hefty bills.
“We’re advising all our customers to pour their fat and oil into a container, and once cooled, scrape it out into the bin. It’s the surest way to avoid a messy and expensive Christmas.”
This is just one of the ways that people misuse their drains and so it is important to think very carefully about what you pour away down the sink and the toilet.
Following three successful events at the end of last year, Anglian Water is all set to continue with its Keep it Clear roadshow when it visits four more communities over the next few months.
Featuring such things as interactive displays, live presentations, demonstrations as well as giveaways, those living in the region will be able to go away from the event knowing more about looking after the drains in their gardens, kitchens and bathrooms than they did before.
The water company have used this fun idea to deliver a very serious message and have designed the programme to educate people in this part of the country about how to prevent drainage issues due to flushing the wrong products down the drains.
If you live near Southend-on-Sea, Northampton or Lincoln, you may want to get on down to the roadshow and learn all about dealing with kitchen food waste from the resident chef, understand how a plumber can fit products that reduce the amount of water used in a household and find out the best ways to make use of water within the home.
The first of these dates takes place on Saturday 21 at the Grosvenor Centre in Northampton.
Staff at Thames Water decided to make a serious point using Christmas Carols last month when they posted a YouTube video of themselves singing a reworded classic to highlight the issues of fat disposal in the sewerage system.
They were all dressed up in suitable festive attire for the occasion as they sang to the tune of ‘Deck the Halls’. The main point they were trying to make is that when people have finished their Christmas dinner, they should not use the drainage pipes to dispose of their unwanted fats used in the cooking.
A Victorian brick sewer in London was used to film the sketch where they hoped the message would get across to residents of the capital. In the city the problem of fat disposal poured down the sink makes their jobs much more difficult.
Rob Smith, the lead chorister of the singing sewermen and worker at Thames Water, said:
"The sewermens’ war cry is: ‘Bin it – don’t block it.’ We are hell-bent on stopping hideous 'fat bergs,' which block sewers and can cause it to back-up into people’s homes and gardens, which is utterly hideous. We’re committed to preventing sewer blockages but we need people’s help. Listen to our song: ‘You must bin it – please don’t block it.’ Got it?"