Slough sewer workers being run 'rag-ged' by wipes

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Slough STW rag

Homes and businesses in Slough are putting themselves and the environment at serious risk of sewage flooding by flushing wet wipes and other non-biodegradable items into the sewers, Thames Water has warned today.

Earlier this week two 140kg masses of wipes and other non-flushables , known as rag, were pulled from the machinery at the company’s sewage works in Slough, with workers saying  it’s becoming an all too regular occurrence. The rag, which clogs up the filter screens at the point where sewage enters the site, has to be scraped away by hand and loaded into skips to be taken away to landfill. Typically, other items which are flushed down toilets  but which should be binned include sanitary towels, cotton buds and even human hair.

Site manager Andy Moore said: “Lots of people think its ok to put these items down the toilet  because they disappear when you flush, but what they don’t realise is they don’t break down like toilet paper does and instead cling to the insides of the pipes and cause  blockages.

Those that don’t stick to the pipes end up at our sewage works and cause blockages there and if the site stops working properly there is real risk of sewage flooding homes and spilling out into the environment causing significant damage. Even when wipes are labelled as flushable, they’re not bio-degradable and still cause blockages so our message is clear: Bin it – don’t block it.”

The team at the works clear the screens every few weeks, although many wipes don’t even make it that far and often block the sewers that carry waste from homes and business across the town to the site. In the last six months Thames Water engineers have cleared almost 600 blockages which if left would cause sewage to back up in the pipes and flood out into properties and the surrounding environment.

Thames Water and other water companies are working with wipes manufacturers to ensure products are more clearly labelled and any marketed as flushable meet an agreed standard so they don’t block sewers or release harmful plastic into the environment.