People in Chester-le-Street who flush wipes down the loo might get a knock on the door in the coming weeks as a campaign to protect homes and the environment moves into the area.
Northumbrian Water’s Bin the Wipe campaign aims to help people understand the problems caused by flushed wipes, such as blockages that could cause waste to back up into people’s homes.
As a result, it is hoped that people who do flush wipes will make a simple change, putting them in the bin instead of down the loo, protecting themselves and neighbours, as well as the environment, from sewer flooding.
More than 5,400 customers in the DH2 2 post code area will this week be receiving letters outlining the problem, with the area having been identified as a ‘hot spot’ for wipes being found in blockages.
Sewer workers from the Bin the Wipe team will also be working in the area over the coming weeks, checking the network and using bespoke tools that help them track where flushed wipes are coming from.
Following the trail upstream, they identify increasingly smaller areas, eventually arriving at the properties from which the wipes are being flushed. Customers are kept informed of progress and reminded of the potential penalties for persistent flushers, which include being charged for blockage clearances, or even prosecution. The ambition is to avoid any such penalty by using education to change people’s behaviour.
When individual homes are identified, this even allows face to face conversations with customers to reinforce the message and help them change their habits.
Simon Cyhanko, Head of Wastewater Networks at Northumbrian Water, said: “We have been to a number of areas in the North East with Bin the Wipe and the response has been brilliant, with the numbers of wipes being flushed dropping massively.
“Many customers in the DH2 2 area don’t flush wipes, and we are grateful to those people. But we know a lot of people there do, because we find high volumes in the local network. What we really want is people to understand that they should never flush wipes – not even one, whatever it says on the packet about flushability.
“Wipes don’t break down like toilet roll does, so they catch and settle in pipes and cause blockages, which can be really nasty for our customers and the environment.
“So we are asking all customers to please Bin the Wipe – you wouldn’t use your bin as a loo, and we want people to stop using their loo as a bin.”