FATTY build-ups and unflushable items such as wet wipes and nappies caused more than 900 blockages in Oxford sewers last year.

Thames Water engineers were called out to clear the ‘mini-fatbergs’ around the city throughout last year and the company has now released the figures as it relaunches its annual Bin It – Don’t Block It campaign, urging customers to be vigilant about what they put down their sinks and toilets.

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Almost 500 blockages last year were caused by items which don’t break down in sewer pipes, such as wet wipes, nappies and sanitary products, while nearly 300 more were caused by fats, oils and grease poured down the sink.

Oxford Mail:

These can combine to create fatbergs - huge, solid masses which are difficult to clear and can cause raw sewage to build up and flood homes, businesses and the environment.

In 2014 Park End Street had to be closed while Thames Water carried out work to remove a mass of fat and other waste that had caused a partial collapse of the sewer.

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Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said: “Sewer blockages caused by unflushable items being put down toilets and sinks pose a massive problem, risking raw sewage backing up in to homes or businesses and costing millions of pounds to clear.

Oxford Mail:

“They can cause massive and disgusting fatbergs that take a great deal of effort and teamwork to clear and get the sewer working well again.

Oxford Mail:

“We’d urge everyone to help by only flushing the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink.”

On average, Thames Water spends £18m every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers, unclogging five house blockages and removing 30 tonnes of material from just one of its sewage treatment works every day.

Instead of pouring fats and oils down the sink, customers are advised to collect them in a container, such as a yoghurt pot or jam jar, and leave them to cool down before scraping them in the bin.

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Wet wipes, sanitary items, nappies and other toiletries should also be binned rather than flushed down the toilet.

From 2017 to 2019, an average of four blockages were cleared in Oxford for every 100 households, with the same figure for the Thames Water region as a whole.

While the number of blockages in Oxford in 2019 has dropped on the 2018 total, Thames Water is emphasising the importance of only flushing items that can break down in sewers.

Oxford Mail:

The company’s network protection team also visits food establishments across the region, ensuring they are not putting fat, grease and oil down their sinks and that fat traps are installed and working properly.

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Businesses that allow fat, grease and oil to get in to sewers can face prosecution or fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds and may even be forced to close.

For more visit thameswater.co.uk/be-water-smart/Bin-it