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KEEP IT CLEAR Think before you flush

Boston is being targeted as part of Anglian Water's "Keep it Clear" campaign to tackle the thousands of sewer blockages and flooding caused by people putting the wrong things down sinks and toilets.

More than half the blockages across the country are caused by people not disposing of wipes and cooking fats properly. Now Anglian Water is working with Boston Borough Council to urge locals to take action to reduce the number.

Looking after the "underground arteries" and pumping stations which take used water from homes and businesses to water recycling centres benefits everyone. Keeping them clear means when there are severe storms, the sewers are able to flow freely and work at maximum capacity, helping to reduce the risk of flooding.

More than half of the 30,000 sewer blockages Anglian Water has to clear each year are avoidable, caused by wipes and cooking fats being wrongly placed in the sewers. Anglian Water spends around £7 million a year just to clear these and other culprits, which can result in devastating flooding to homes, gardens and the environment otherwise.

A survey of 8,396 homes in Boston revealed that there have been 239 avoidable blockages during 2014.

Katherine Briscombe, Anglian Water's Collection Manager for the Boston area, said: "By not putting things like food, fats and wipes down our sinks and loos, we can all help avoid blocked pipes, and the sewer flooding, inconvenience pollution and bad smells that result.

"Clearing sewer blockages costs a huge amount of time and money, which could be better spent on improving the services we provide to customers."

Alison peers into rag pit Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Cllr Austin peers into the collection well at Anglian Water's Marsh Lane Pumping Station. If all three pumps fail it takes just half an hour before thousands of gallons of sewage fill the tank and back up the system causing flooding

Fats quickly cool and solidify once down the drain, blocking the pipes. When this combines with wipes and other sanitary items wrongly placed in the sewer, they form giant "fatbergs" and blockages that are difficult to shift and can cause sewage to back up and overflow, flooding homes and gardens.

Unfortunately, even the products marked "flushable" do not break down in the sewer in the same way as toilet paper and can cause blockages. With one in every two adults in the UK purchasing some kind of wipe, this along with fats and greases is a rapidly-growing problem.

In Boston, wipes and sanitary products should be put in the green wheeled bin. Used cooking oil should be recycled where possible. Solid fat and small quantities soaked up in kitchen towel or newspaper can also be placed in the green wheeled bin.

Katherine continued: "The Keep It Clear campaign is about getting everyone to understand the responsibility we all share to keep the sewers flowing and protect ourselves and our neighbours from the misery and inconvenience of sewer flooding."

Rag and pump at Marsh Lane Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Cllr Austin and John with one of the three pumps which can be put out of action. Marsh Lane Pumping Station moves a third of all residential and commercial sewage from Boston and is the penultimate pumping station before the treatment plant

Cllr Alison Austin, from Boston Borough Council, said: "In May of this year an evening of very heavy rain caused water to come up through the drains in part of my ward. This has happened in this area several times before but on this occasion raw sewage was coming up the drain in the yard of one resident and was lapping at her doorstep.

"The nearby Anglian Water pumping station was out of action. Employees had to clear out what is referred to as "rag" from the filters. They informed me that this particular pumping station, although by no means the only one, is often blocked because of what people flush down their drains. Although so-called flushable items, nappies and fat are some of the main problems, other items causing blockage include food, children's toys and even clothes.

"Campaigns have been carried out by the company in several other towns in the Anglian region, but never in Boston. As the problem occurs in other parts of the borough as well as in my area, I encouraged them to make it a borough-wide campaign.

"It is a matter of educating members of the public about what drains and sewers are able to do and how they work. Part of everyone's water bill goes on the cost of unblocking drains and pumps. More important, of course, is the issue of public health.

"As regards the family in my ward, four small children were put at risk by contamination of their outdoor toys by someone else's sewage."

Allison Louth, mum of four, of 60 Wyberton Low Road, has had to have her kitchen, dining room, bathroom, yard and shed washed out and disinfected by Anglian Water following sewage back-up and overflow after blockages of the pumps at Marsh Lane pumping station.

Louth family with drain Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Allison Louth and her children, from left, Shona (4), Lexi (2), Roxanne (6) and Bradley (8), with the drain which has overflowed and flooded sewage into their home

She said: "My dad is a plumber and it has been drilled into me that you shouldn't put cotton buds, wipes or leftover food down the toilet. We are very careful about doing the right thing but first to feel the effects when others don't."

Over the next year Anglian Water will be working to raise awareness of blockages and the Keep It Clear campaign among communities, this includes working with Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service in Boston to help spread the word about how to avoid blockages.

Volunteering Officer Jody Raggo said: "We are very pleased to be working in partnership with Anglian Water. In the short time that the project has been launched within Boston, we have had a great response from the people we have talked to. We look forward to working with more local groups in the coming months."

More information and tips are available from where people can also order free sink strainers to stop food scraps blocking pipes too.

Customers are also reminded to call Anglian Water on 03457 145145 immediately if they think they have a problem with their drains.

Wyberton sewage flooding Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window
Cllr Richard Austin standing in the sewage back-up after it flooded out of a drain and into Allison Louth's property in May