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6,000 tons of sewer blockage found

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A worker sorts a skip of rag before it is collected at the Newhaven Water Treatment Works in East Sussex (Southern Water/PA)

A worker sorts a skip of rag before it is collected at the Newhaven Water Treatment Works in East Sussex (Southern Water/PA)

A worker sorts a skip of rag before it is collected at the Newhaven Water Treatment Works in East Sussex (Southern Water/PA)

More than 6,000 tons of wet wipes and other sewer blockers - the weight of 2,000 hippos - have been cleared from a major sewer network.

The refuse was cleared from Southern Water's network across the South East between April and November last year.

Wipes, sanitary products, cotton wool and cotton buds can block sewers, leading to problems including flooding of homes and gardens and overflowing manholes as sewers back up.

Of the sludge removed, 2,155 tons were cleared from wastewater treatment works in Kent, 2,018 tons from Sussex ,1,853 tons from Hampshire and 165 tons from the Isle of Wight.

Paul Kent, Southern Water's wastewater strategy manager, said: "The use of wet wipes and things like make-up wipes, moist toilet tissue and cleaning wipes apparently rises by 15% each year, but this trend is putting a strain on our sewers - as shown by the huge amount cleared from our works.

"Unlike toilet roll, these wipes don't break down when flushed, so frequently cause blockages. They can also cause damage at our treatment works as they can get tangled up in pumps and filters. Even those said to be 'flushable' cause problems - they may flush away but they don't biodegrade so can still block pipes further down the line.

"The same applies to things like cotton buds, dental floss, make up wipes and cotton wool. Flushing them causes a pain in the drain, which is why we urge people to only flush the three Ps - pee, poo and paper."

A Southern Water spokesman said the sewers' other biggest enemy was cooking fat poured down drains, which solidifies over time.

Last year, 11,000 blockages in Southern Water's region were caused by fat, wipes and other things that should not be in sewers.

PA Media