Please do your bit to stop sewer flooding (and avoid scenes like this…)

Thames Water is appealing to local residents to play their part in protecting their communities from sewer flooding this winter.

In recent months the company has carried out a range of work to reduce flooding (see latest update) but says the risk would be lowered further if items like wipes and sanitary products were put in household bins instead of down the toilet and used cooking fat and oil wasn’t poured down sinks. Both easily block sewers, many of which are no bigger in diameter than a tennis ball, causing sewage to build up and potentially flood homes, businesses and the environment.

In the last five years, Thames Water has cleared 116 blockages from the sewers in Lambourn, averaging around two per month. In that time, the company also cleared 14 blockages in Upper Lambourn, 18 in Eastbury, 48 in Great Shefford and 30 in East Garston. Masses of fat and unflushable items like wipes were the cause of around 75 per cent of the blockages.

Earlier this year, evidence of Lambourn’s flushing habits also came to light when the temporary sewage filter set up by Thames Water, outside the fire station, became clogged with wipes and had to be cleaned out several times. Meanwhile, many residents will remember seeing wipes littering the ground in places where sewers had overflowed before the filter was put in place – a grim sight that can easily be avoided.

Stephen Sanderson, from Thames Water, said: “Many items like wet wipes have plastic in them and won’t break down in the sewers like toilet paper does, even if they’re labelled as flushable. We urge everyone to help reduce the risk of flooding by only flushing the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink.”

Thames Water recommends instead of pouring fats and oils down the sink, to collect them in a container, like a yogurt pot or jam jar, and leave them to cool down before scraping them in the bin. “Even if the oil or fat is in liquid form, it can still contribute to blockages,” Stephen explained. “It’s also a myth that pouring washing up liquid down with it will help – it doesn’t!”

On average, Thames Water spends £18 million every year removing 75,000 blockages from its sewers. It clears five household blockages and removes 30 tonnes of unflushables from a single sewage treatment works every day. It sees an increase in sewer blockages around Christmas time caused by fat and oil. It’s believed this is due to the contents of turkey roast pans going down the sink along with leftover gravy and scraps.

For more information about Thames Water’s campaign to prevent sewer blockages, please click here.

Apologies for the rather disgusting photos at the head of this post but they are both topical and local. The one of the right shows sewage on Newbury Street in Lambourn in February 2020: the one on the left was taken a few months later and shows wipes clogging up Thame’s Water’s temporary sewage filter, also in Lambourn.

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