More than 6,000 tons of wet wipes and other sewer blockers made their way into Southern Water’s sewer network works between April and November 2014 – the equivalent in weight of 2,000 hippos.
Of this, 167 tons – or 56 hippos – were cleared from Eastbourne Wastewater Treatment Works having travelled through sewers after being flushed down toilets.
Wipes and things like sanitary products, cotton wool and cotton buds can block sewers, causing serious problems – potentially leading to pollutions or flooding of homes and gardens as sewers back up and overflow from manholes.
Paul Kent, Southern Water’s wastewater strategy manager, said, “The use of wet wipes, and things like make-up wipes, moist toilet tissue and cleaning wipes, apparently rises by 15 per cent each year but this trend is putting a strain on our sewers – as shown by the huge amount cleared from our works.
“Unlike toilet roll, these wipes don’t break down when flushed so frequently cause blockages.
“They can also cause damage at our treatment works as they can get tangled up in pumps and filters.
“Even those said to be ‘flushable’ cause problems – they may flush away but they don’t biodegrade so can still block pipes further down the line.
“The same applies to things like cotton buds, dental floss, make up wipes and cotton wool.
“Flushing them causes a pain in the drain, which is why we urge people to only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper.”
The sewers’ other biggest enemy is cooking fat poured down drains, which solidifies over time.
Last year, 11,000 blockages in Southern Water’s region were caused by fat, wipes and other things that should not be in sewers.
It’s a nation-wide problem - in England and Wales, over two thirds of sewer blockages are caused by inappropriate items finding their way down the sink or toilet.
Toilet paper decomposes naturally and can be flushed away safely, but non-biodegradable items, such as wet wipes, should be put in the bin.
Wet wipes are one of the biggest causes of blockages in sewers and at wastewater treatment works.
Even wipes described as “flushable” cause blockages and the biodegradable ones often don’t spend long enough in the sewer to start to decompose.
There are more than 300,000 sewer blockages a year in the UK caused by fats, oils, greases and other non-biodegradable items.
For details on Southern Water’s Pain in the Drain campaign, visit www.southern water.co.uk/PainInTheDrain