WELSH Water has urged its customers not to flush wet wipes or kitchen roll down their toilets if they are affected by a toilet paper shortage during the COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) outbreak.
The company made the warning amid reports of shortages of toilet paper in shops, which may lead to higher sales of non-flushable alternatives, like wet wipes or kitchen roll.
Wet wipes are the major cause of sewer blockages in the UK – with wipes found in an estimated 93% of blockages every year. The blockages cost the company £7 million to tackle, and amount to around 2,000 incidents every month.
The company has urged customers to throw any wipes or kitchen roll in the bin, rather than down the toilet.
Many supermarkets in the country have reported running out of toilet paper as shoppers buy in bulk as a result of the virus outbreak.
Wipes, along with other items like nappies and sanitary products, don’t break down in pipes like toilet paper and can combine with fats, oils and grease to create blockages which are difficult to clear and can cause raw sewage to build up and flood homes, businesses and the environment.
Steve Wilson, Welsh Water’s managing director of wastewater, said: “While we encourage everyone to practice good hygiene to protect against coronavirus, wet wipes and kitchen roll can be hugely damaging to our sewers.
“Throwing these items away in the bin instead of flushing them will reduce the number of blockages and the risk of flooding to homes, businesses and the environment during what is likely to be a difficult time for many people.
“It’s too early to say what impact the outbreak has had on our sewers but, as always, we’d urge everyone to only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – to help avoid problems.”
On average, Welsh Water spends £7 million every year clearing 28,000 blockages from its sewers.
Welsh Water spends around £7 million a year clearing avoidable blockages in sewers – the cost is passed onto customers through sewerage bills.
Around two thirds of sewer blockages on Welsh Water’s network are caused by inappropriate substances like fat, oil and grease (FOG), wet wipes and sanitary products being flushed down the loo.
This year Welsh Water had to clear a major ‘fatberg’ blockage from underneath a busy Cardiff street.
The build-up of fat, oil and grease is indirectly responsible for many cases of sewer flooding and pollution of rivers and streams.
If we all take care not to tip our greasy leftovers into the sewerage system, the number of customers affected by flooding and the impact on our environment will be significantly reduced.
Drains from the home are normally no wider than four inches (100mm).
If there is a blockage or fault in your private drain, you will need to hire a drainage contractor to clear or repair it. Sewerage companies are only responsible for maintaining public sewers.
If sewage has flooded your property from a public sewer, the company should send someone to help clean up your home as quickly as possible.
You are entitled to a rebate off your annual sewerage bill to cover damages to the inside of your home caused by flooding from the public sewer.
Don’t forget to check whether your household insurance covers damage from sewer flooding.