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Fatbergs, cuddly toys and Buzz Lightyear – the disgusting things sewage workers have found in Cumbrian drains

Posted: 12/04/22

Blocked drains are a nightmare whenever and wherever they happen – flooding homes and creating household misery. But spare a thought for the individuals on the other end of the blockage.

Whenever you flush, it has to go somewhere, regardless of what manages to make it through the U-bend. United Utilities workers have unveiled a bizarre catalogue of items clogging up our pipes in decades working in the drains.

In the meantime they’re pleading with people to follow the three P’s. Pee, poo and paper are the only things that should be going down the toilet.

Drainage project manager for Cumbria, Nick Walls has spent the last 25 years working in the industry after starting as an apprentice. And admitted the toughest tasks they face are not always bulky items.

He said: “The biggest problems we face are Fat, Oils and Grease going down the drains. When they’re hot they travel but as soon as they cool they become like concrete. Domestic owners need to be aware that they need to clear as much as they can into the bin rather than put it down the sink.”

But, it’s not only these things that cause blockages. Another of the worst causes is wet wipes and Nick slammed the companies for saying they’re flushable when they don’t biodegrade and get stuck in the drains.

When these get stuck this gives the fat, oil and grease something to stick to which causes the blockages. However, other things can become wedged in these blockages – sometimes called fatbergs.

Nick explained how they have found Buzz Lightyear doll, several Power Rangers and even a full stuffed cuddly teddy blocking the drains beneath Cumbria. Shockingly they have found knickers, bras and even a pair of jeans in the pipework.

He said: “You can’t believe some of the things we have found, we have even had to call the police about some of the items found. We have had calls from people who have lost wedding rings and if we can help we will do what we can.

“But the smell is foul and if you get it on your hands even after you wash them the smell stays.

We do have a lot lined up in the next few months and we’re hoping to help businesses get on top of their waste. We’re helping install systems that can catch the fats which can then be used as biodiesel.”

Currently Untied Utilities deal with about 22,000 blockages a year which cost £10m across the North West.


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