This is the 60,000 wet wipes which caused a blockage at a Sunderland pumping station

Some of the wet wipes found blocking sewage pipes.
Some of the wet wipes found blocking sewage pipes.
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A blockage at a Washington sewage pumping station has highlighted the problem of wet wipes being flushed down the toilet.

Disposable wipes are a major cause of blockages in the sewer network, which can lead to flooding both in the environment and in people’s homes.

Even wet wipes that are labelled “flushable” contain plastics and do not degrade, instead contributing to these blockages.

Northumbrian Water reminds people that only the three Ps – toilet paper, pee and poo – should be flushed down the toilet.

The company has 765 sewage pumping stations across the North East, and when production operator Chris Hepple came to clean out one of them, he decided to do some maths to help illustrate the problem.

Using a trailer and some maths skills, Chris showed that the equivalent of more than 750 packs of wet wipes were removed from that single pumping station over a six-month period.

Chris weighed his trailer at 480kg before loading it up with the wet wipes that had collected in the Pattinson South sewage pumping station in Washington.

He then returned to the weigh station to find the loaded trailer was now registering as 810kg, showing the weight of the wipes to be 330kg.

Read more: UK wet wipe ban is our opportunity to end ‘flushaway’ culture

Determined to understand the problem further, Chris then weighed a number of individual wipes and found that the average weight was 5.5 grams.

This meant the blockage removed from the pumping station was made up of a staggering 60,000 wet wipes.

“This is a massive problem because of the contribution wet wipes make to causing blockages in our network,” he said.

“This is not only bad news for the environment, but it is absolutely awful for customers who are affected when flooding happens in their homes.

“We know this is one of the worst things that can happen in someone’s home, and we would urge all customers to bin their used wipes, and not flush them down the toilet.

“Only toilet paper, pee and poo should go down the loo – everything else, particularly wipes, can cause problems.”