BLOG: Time to stop the block in our strained sewers

If I asked you to guess what was found lurking in the sewer pipes of England and Wales over the past year I’m willing to bet ‘adult toys’ or a hand grenade wouldn’t feature on your list. But believe it or not these strange discoveries are just two of the more bizarre items that have been fished from the dirty depths of our sewer network in recent times. Fortunately these finds are as a rare as they are amusing, but the real scourge of our sewers is anything but a laughing matter.

Just the tip of the ‘fatberg’

Old hand grenade - UUChristmas just wouldn’t be Christmas at the Consumer Council for Water if we weren’t piping up with a reminder for consumers not to pour their roasting tin fat down the sink or drain. That’s because for many years fats, oils and greases (FOG) have been the biggest pain in the drain when it comes to blocked sewers. But a rise in the use and disposal of wet and, so called flushable, wipes has piled even more pressure on our pipework. This mucky mix of greasy fats and wipes can end up suffocating narrow sewer pipes and lead to blockages with potentially disastrous consequences.

Anyone who has suffered the misery of seeing their home flooded with sewage will not need reminding of the devastation and upset it can cause. Every year thousands of unsuspecting households endure this fate – and in many cases it can be traced back to a blocked sewer pipe.

Southern clogged pipeThe huge expense of having to clear clogged-up pipes still has an impact on those of us fortunate enough never to be affected by sewer flooding. Last year the ten sewerage companies had to splash out about £50 million clearing blockages caused by inappropriate items being flushed down the loo or poured down the sink – and it’s us – the customers – who ultimately pick up the tab through our bills. That’s why it’s in everyone’s interests to keep our sewers clear – and the good news is it’s really simple to play your part by following this advice:

Remember the ‘3 Ps’

  • ONLY FLUSH – the 3 Ps: Pee, Poo and toilet Paper down your loo.
  • DON’T FLUSH – other items including wet wipes, nappies and pads; cotton buds; tissues; plastic bags and wrappers; sanitary towels; plasters and chewing gum. Bag them and bin them instead.
  • DON’T POUR – cooking fats, oils and greases down the sink or drain. Instead KEEP A FAT TRAP or container in the kitchen to collect waste fats, oils and grease. Many water companies will provide you with a free fat trap.
  • DO ALLOW – small amounts of fats, oils and grease to cool and scrape them into a container or newspaper before binning them

Steve Grebby is CCWater’s sewerage expert


  1. ‘Adult toys’ (Southern Water)
  2. Dismantled greenhouse (South West Water)
  3. Motorbike (Severn Trent)
  4. Hand grenade (United Utilities)
  5. Space hopper (Yorkshire Water)

The items creating a stink in our sewers – 2014/15

Sewerage company (England and Wales) Sewer blockages caused by fats, oils,
greases & other non-biodegradable items
Strangest items pulled from the sewer/waste treatment plants
Anglian Water  10,700 False teeth, toy action figures, golf balls, mobile phones.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water  24,000 Mini motorbike; mop heads, trousers, fence posts.
Northumbrian Water 3,000 Large hammer, animal skull.
Severn Trent Water  31,500 Motorbike
Southern Water  12,400 ‘Adult toys’, dead sheep, false teeth, severed fingers, teddy bears.
South West Water  8,500 A dismantled greenhouse, 12-inch kitchen knife, underwear, false teeth
Thames Water  73,500 Dead badger, toy boat, glasses, false teeth.
United Utilities  10,800 Hand grenade, road cones, toy prams, dead sheep.
Wessex Water  13,000 Toy ‘Nemo’ fish.
Yorkshire Water 17,000 A space hopper, gold jewellery, false teeth.

Got any questions or want to find out more? Then email us at