Coronavirus lockdown leaves sewers blocked with ‘disgusting’ toilet-roll substitutes

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Grim photos show the state of some of Britain’s sewers since people began resorting to “toilet roll substitutes”.

Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic toilet has been a hot commodity.

As the one-time bathroom staple has been increasingly difficult to find, people have resorted to alternative materials.

Severn Trent Water said it had received 3,000 reports of sewer blockages in a fortnight – mainly due to kitchen roll.

The company described its workload as “much busier than usual”.

Scottish Water also said it had seen a high number of sewage blockages – recording 1,343 between March 16 and March 30.

Scottish Water has had to deal with a higher number of blockages than usual

Scottish Water has had to deal with a higher number of blockages than usual

Garry Kirkwood, Scottish Water’s sewer response manager, said: “This can be an extremely distressing experience for people and cause significant damage to property.

“We are calling for the support of our customers to do the right thing and not contribute to avoidable sewer chokes.”

Welsh Water reiterated the importance of not flushing wet wipes or kitchen roll if they are affected due to the shortage of toilet paper.

Steve Wilson, Welsh Water’s managing director of wastewater, said: “While we encourage everyone to practise good hygiene to protect against coronavirus, wet wipes and kitchen roll can be hugely damaging to our sewers.”

Wet wipes are causing havoc in the sewers

Wet wipes are causing havoc in the sewers

Thames Water said their engineers had removed three huge blockages from the inlet filter screens at Beddington sewage works in Croydon in just three weeks.

Adrian Wallis, Beddington sewage works manager, said: “Normally we only need to jet wash the inlet screens every two to three months. Last month alone we did it three times.”

Southern Water, Northumbrian Water and Northern Ireland Water have also recently issued pleas to residents to only flush toilet paper.

Speaking of the rise in call-outs, the sewer blockages lead at Severn Trent Water, Grant Mitchell, said: “We know just how worrying it is for everyone at the moment and we want to reassure our customers that we’re working really hard to keep our essential service running.

Wet wipes are blocking water treatment systems as people run out of toilet paper

Wet wipes are blocking water treatment systems as people run out of toilet paper

“In the last two weeks we’ve dealt with over 3,000 reports of sewer flooding or sewer blockages in our area which is much busier than normal. And we’re seeing more and more blockages caused by kitchen roll and wipes.

“We know that some people are having to resort to using a whole manner of things to substitute for toilet roll at the moment, but a sewer blockage is the last thing that anyone needs right now.

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“So we wanted to let everyone know that kitchen roll and wipes are not designed to break down like loo roll is so please remember to bin them otherwise you could end up blocking your sewer pipes.”

Mr Mitchell added: “On top of doing one of the most mucky jobs out there, our teams are getting asked why they’re out and about a lot at the moment, but we want to reassure everyone they are only doing work that is essential.

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“If more and more sewers need unblocking, they need to be out more, so please be understanding, as no-one really wants to dig out poo, kitchen roll and wipes.

“But all of this can easily be avoided, so if you do need to use something other than toilet roll, just remember to pop it in the bin, and not the toilet.”

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