The Wokingham Paper

Thames Water remove a 20-metre blockage from sewer caused by people flushing wet wipes down the loo

Thames Water wet wipes
A mass of wipes removed from a sewer in North London by Thames Water

A PUSH to sort out issues caused by people flushing wet wipes down the toilet has been welcomed by water companies. 

Earlier this week, Thames Water pulled a 20 metre mass of wipes from a North London sewer. 

The company says that it costs £18 million a year to sort out 75,000 blockages, with wet wipes – which do not break down – being a major cause. 

And bosses from the water firm said that it welcomed a ruling saying wet wipe manufacturers need to be clearer when they are marketing their products as flushable. 

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled an online advert by Kimberley-Clark broke guidelines by wrongly implying its wipes met a single national standard for flushability. While it meets a standard set by manufacturers, it does not meet the Fine to Flush standard which is used by the water companies responsible for the sewers. 

The North London mass of wet wipes resulted in the sewers flooding several gardens and took a team of engineers more than five hours to remove. 

Thames Water network performance manager Stephen Pattenden said: “This was hundreds of wipes stuck together which caused unpleasant flooding for customers and had to be removed by hand. 

“Wet wipes are a major problem across our network so we welcome anything which helps to clarify the issue for customers. 

“We accept wet wipes are convenient but we would ask anyone using them to make sure they look for the Fine to Flush logo so we can reduce the number of blockages in our sewers which would in turn cut pollution.” 

The Fine to Flush standard has been developed by Water UK, in partnership with companies like Thames Water, to demonstrate products which breakdown in the sewers and do not cause blockages. Products which have passed rigorous testing can put a special logo on the packaging.  

Water UK Director of Corporate Affairs Rae Stewart said: “Water UK is very clear – wipes manufacturers should not label or sell products advertised as flushable if they don’t pass the official Fine to Flush standard.  

“Our research shows that wipes can be a major contributor to sewer blockages, and customers have been left confused by wipes labelled flushable. If a wipe doesn’t have the official Fine to Flush label we do not regard it as flushable, and it should go in the bin not the toilet. 

“We look forward to working with Kimberly-Clark as they seek to meet the Fine to Flush standard for their products.”

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