Every year there are 25,000 sewer blockages across the North West and around 1,000 homes and 6,000 gardens are affected by sewer flooding.
Things like wipes and nappies do not just disappear down the u-bend and dissolve, they clump together and can cause havoc in the sewers, causing distress for people whose homes and gardens have been flooded by blocked sewers.
As well as blocking sewers, many of these items can end up in our rivers and on our beaches, which has far-reaching impacts on nature and the environment.
In 2018 we trialled a new community-focused approach to reducing sewer flooding in Burscough, Lancashire, an area with flooding issues mainly due to sewer blockages caused by wet wipes.
For a six-month period, our customer team went out and about meeting customers and working with the community to spread the message about what not to flush and showing them how we can all do our bit to help.
The campaign delivered excellent results, with an impressive 90 per cent reduction in wet wipes and other non-flushable items entering our sewers.
As part of the campaign we:
- Sent a 'Burscough Better Together' leaflet to 6,000 residents in the area;
- Held a number of events in supermarkets, a Christmas fayre, and a heritage weekend in the summer;
- Engaged with local children by holding 'Mad Science' assemblies in primary schools and a talk at the village holiday club;
- Visited food outlets to talk to owners about their methods of dealing with fats, oil and grease;
- Provided local nurseries and baby groups with potty training packs containing advice and information about not flushing wipes;
- Placed adverts in local magazines about the importance of not flushing wet wipes; and
- Worked closely with other agencies, such as West Lancashire District Council and the Environment Agency, to discuss local flooding issues and future developments in Burscough.
Our network teams carried out regular cleaning across the area and looked at ways to reduce the risk of further flooding.
The Burscough project worked so well that we are planning to roll it out to other problem areas, engaging with customers and communities to help change behaviours around 'what not to flush'.