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Catchment Management

Over 50,000 blocked sewers prompts ‘3Ps’ toilet reminder

Yorkshire Water has revealed that its sewer technicians have already had to unblock sewers a staggering 50,888 times across the region so far this year.

As a result, the firm is urging customers to flush only ‘the 3Ps’ -  poo, pee and paper - down their toilets.

Nearly a third of the massive amount of sewer blockages were caused by wet wipes being flushed down the toilet, which according to Yorkshire Water, are increasingly being used as a luxury toilet roll.

The city with the most sewer blockages in the region is Sheffield, with over 9,000 clogged up sewers fixed this year. Leeds has had 7,241 and Hull 3,932.
The task of keeping the sewers flowing is with the firm's team of sewer technicians, dubbed ‘sewer crusaders’.  They use high pressure water spray jets to break up blockages and so reduce the risk of sewage backing up into people’s homes.

James Harrison, Technical Manager at Yorkshire Water, said: "We're noticing a significant increase in the amount of sewer blockages related to wet wipes in particular. We understand information from manufacturers can be quite confusing as some products say flushable on the packaging; however, we would urge people to flush only ‘the 3Ps’ - poo, pee and paper down the toilet and to put anything else in the bin to try and prevent sewers from becoming blocked.”

The width of sewers in the city range from just 15cm to several metres and narrow ones are most prone to blockages. In the worst case scenario blockages can cause raw sewage waste to back up into people’s homes and cause interior flooding.

There is a 52,500 kilometre sewer network operating across the region with many sewers made of brick dating back to the Victorian era. Most new sewers are made of concrete, plastic or iron.

Yorkshire Water’s ‘Stop it, don’t block it’ campaign aims to highlight the significant amount of blockages it has to fix and to make customers aware of what items shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet.

Every weekend, in every town and city, several tonnes of wipes and are pulled out of sewage plants. Random items such as false teeth, a space hopper and even gold jewelry have also been found in the past to the surprise of Yorkshire Water staff.

Over the next five years, the company will be investing £252 million to improve the quality of the region’s sewer network.

You can find more information on how to prevent blockages here.

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