Four hot spots in the TS8 9 area of Hemlington, Middlesbrough, and four in the TS17 9 and TS17 0 areas of Thornaby, will start to see activity this week as the company sets out to target a total of 40 new areas, selected because of the high frequency of wipe-related blockages.
The campaign, which urges people to dispose of wipes responsibly and to not flush them down the toilet, was launched earlier this year, after the products contributed to around 64% of the 15,600 sewer blockages cleared in the North East in 2019.
In the first quarter of 2020, Northumbrian Water saw a 20% increase in wipes contributing to blockages across the region, compared with the four-year average. However, in the campaign’s pilot area, centred on part of the TS19 postcode area in Stockton, there was a 61% decrease.
Unlike toilet paper, wet wipes do not break down quickly in the sewers, and can settle or snag in pipes, starting build-ups that can cause sewage to back-up into people’s homes or businesses, or even spill into the environment and endanger wildlife.
In the TS19 pilot area, Northumbrian Water embarked on a twin-approach to tackling the problem. This involved:
Once homeowners who were flushing such items were identified, they received supporting information to try to encourage a change of behaviour.
The success of this trial will see the company take these tactics to the new areas, in addition to reactively using these methods to identify such activity across the region.
While the campaign involves direct education in an effort to encourage changes to people’s behaviour, those who continue to flush wipes may face being recharged for the cost of clearing resulting blockages, or, in extreme circumstances, prosecution, in line with the Water Industry Act 1991.
Simon Cyhanko, Northumbrian Water’s Head of Wastewater Networks, said: “Teesside – our Bin The Wipe team is coming back and we want you to make a simple change that can really help protect you, your neighbours and the environment from the awful consequences of sewer blockages!
“The biggest cause of blockages in our sewer network is, by far, wipes, and while the problem is getting worse, it costs absolutely nothing to play your part in solving it.
“We’ve been really inspired by the success the pilot activity in Stockton has had, so we’re bringing those tactics to Hemlington this month as we start to roll Bin The Wipe out across the region.
“If we can get the people of Hemlington on board, it can really help protect homes and the environment.
“People should not use their toilet as a bin. Wet wipes do not belong in sewers, and they definitely should not be flushed, regardless of what it says on the packaging. The consequences of a blockage caused by people putting wipes down the loo can be horrific.
“And while we want to work with customers to encourage this simple, free behavioural change, we do have to get serious with people who continue to flush wet wipes after we have tried education, communications and face-to-face discussion. Such sustained behaviour will see us looking to recharge our costs and, in the worst cases, prosecute. We have to take this position to protect our customers and the environment.”