Paid collaboration with Welsh Water
One of my earliest childhood memories is of a drain lid in the back yard of my childhood home bursting open and flooding our garden with the contents of our street’s toilets. Poo. Toilet paper in all different colours (this was the 1980s after all!). Goodness knows what else. Everywhere!
As the end property in a row of terraced houses, the waste went down the street and through our garden before continuing to the sewers. However, some kind of blockage had caused an explosion on our property.
The stench and the sight was so revolting I can still vividly remember it around 35 years later. I remember my dad doing his best to shift the blockage with a metal spade while we waited for professional help. It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen.
I don’t recall what caused the blockage but I do know that sadly experiences like this were not left behind in the 1980s.
Across Wales there are around 2,000 sewer or drain blockages every month.
That’s 500 a week.
More than 70 a day.
Such blockages can cause flooding in your own home or a neighbour’s. They can be costly to unblock – costing up to £7 million a year to clear – not to mention emotionally distressing.
They can also lead to environmental pollution, damaging rivers and beaches.
Amazingly though many of these blockages are avoidable.
That’s because they are caused by people flushing everyday items such as cotton buds, wet wipes, nappies and sanitary protection down the toilet; or pouring things like fat, oil and food down the sink.
Welsh Water provides water to three million people every day and is the only not-for-profit water company of its kind in the UK.
They have found that often people simply don’t realise that the things they flush or pour down the sink can be so damaging.
Welsh Water do an important job in protecting the environment by taking away, cleaning and returning wastewater, before returning it to our rivers and seas. And such blockages have a huge impact on their work.
Their Let’s Stop The Block campaign is raising awareness of steps people can take to reduce the number of blockages.
Some of the main culprits are wet wipes and cleaning wipes (even those labelled as ‘flushable’), disposable nappies and sanitary products.
I know it would never occur to most people to flush away nappies – but it happens. And it happens locally. Some of you may well remember a former Cardiff play centre that was continually having to call in the professionals to unblock its toilets and drains – often more than once a week – because people were continually flushing nappies. This was despite huge posters and signs warning of the damage this was causing.
In the kitchen, oil, fats and grease can lead to major blockages. And again this is happening on our doorsteps.
In 2015 a 3ft wide ‘fatberg’ was found in the sewers in Cardiff under Mill Lane. Cooking fats and oils had accumulated and caused a huge fatty blockage. It was made worse by wipes and other sanitary product collecting behind the obstruction.
You can see the video here.
If you think that’s disgusting enough to watch, spare a thought for the people who had to remove it.
Thankfully there are plenty of simple steps we can take to reduce the chance of blockages in our toilets, pipes, drains and sewers.
In the bathroom
- Only flush away ordinary toilet roll and natural waste.
- Remember even ‘flushable’ wipes can cause problems. They may well pass through your toilet but often end up causing blockages further down the sewer line. Bin them instead.
- Put items such as cotton buds and dental floss in the bin and not the toilet.
- Put nappies, tampons and sanitary products in a small scented bag (you can buy biodegradable ones to reduce plastic waste) and then put them in the bin.
- Never flush away items such as razors, needles and medication. Dispose of them safely.
- Reduce your waste. Review whether there are more environmentally-friendly options such as using muslin cloths instead of facial wipes.
- Encourage potty training youngsters to use toilet paper rather than wipes so that you can flush the whole lot safely.
- Use a plug filter for the shower to stop hair clogging the pipes and drains.
In the kitchen
- Only dispose of water from washing up down the sink.
- Scrape food from plates and put it in your food recycling bin.
- Buy a sink filter to stop rogue scraps of food falling down the sink.
- Carefully strain water you have used for cooking vegetables, pasta and rice etc to ensure it is free from food before pouring down the sink.
- Don’t pour cooking oil, fat or food waste down the sink.
- Wipe all pans and cooking trays with kitchen town before washing and bin the kitchen towel.
- Pour used cooking oil, fat or grease into a suitable container when cooled and dispose of with your domestic waste according to advice given from your local authority.
- Consider re-using cooking fat – once cooled you can filter it through a muslin or kitchen towel and store in a suitable container in the fridge or freezer.
- Check if your local authority has provisions at its household waste recycling centre for the safe disposal of household fat and other food waste.
- Create less waste by measuring the amount of oil you use when cooking or use a spray.
Having seen first-hand just how distressing a blocked drain can be, we take steps in our family to ensure we are doing what we can to Stop The Block. I hope you will join us in doing the same.
Were you aware of the Let’s Stop The Block campaign? Have you ever experienced a blocked drain or sewer? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or you can tweet me on @cardiffmummy