From cans of lager to mobile phones - the unusual items causing hundreds of sewage blockages in South Shields

South Shields has been named as the worst area in the North East for sewage blockages – with people flushing the likes of larger cans down the toilet.

Saturday, 9th November 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 10th November 2019, 2:17 pm

Northumbrian Water has revealed that there has been 313 blockages in the in the NE34 postcode area so far this year.

This meant that South Shields came out as number one on the North East water company’s top ten list of hot spot areas for blockages – above cities such as Newcastle, which has had 199 blockages in 2019.

This comes as people are wrongly flushing items such as wet wipes down the toilet instead of flushing just pee, paper and poo down the drain.

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A Peppa Pig toy was among the items uncovered by Norhumbrian Water following sewage blockages.
A Peppa Pig toy was among the items uncovered by Norhumbrian Water following sewage blockages.

Wet wipes are one of the biggest causes of blockages because they usually clog up inside the pipe.

They can also meet with forming fatbergs, which form when fats, oils and grease (FOG) are poured down the drain, and harden.

FOG and items such as wet wipes, nappies, cotton buds, condoms and sanitary products that are disposed of down the toilet instead of being put in a bin, can lead to the sewer network backing up.

But Northumbrian Water has also come across more unusual items flushed down the toilet – with staff even finding a full can of unopened larger that had been flushed in South Tyneside.

Northumbrian Water have dealt with hundreds of blockages in South Shields this year.

Meanwhile across the region a whole host of strange items have been found blocked.

These include a Peppa Pig toy, shotgun cartridge and electric toothbrush in Houghton; a mobile phone in Sunderland; while tampons, pantie liners, a clip on toilet air freshener and two bags of rubble were found in Washington.

And now the company is urging the public to not use toilets as a bin in an effort to help protect our rivers and seas.

Last month they held campaign Unblocktober, launched by the Lanes Group to raise awareness of the problem.

A mobile phone had been flushed in Sunderland.

Richard Warneford, Northumbrian Water's wastewater director, said: "Wet wipes are one of the biggest causes of blockages for us and we really need our customers' help to wipe out the flushing of wipes.

“Despite wet wipes being promoted as ‘flushable' they rarely are, as they may leave your toilet bowl when flushed but can clog up householders' plumbing and can also cause blockages in our network of sewer pipes.

"Blockages can have devastating consequences to people's homes being flooded and the environment being polluted, which is so saddening to see.”

So far in 2019, Northumbrian Water have cleared more than 9,500 blockages within its 29,000 kilometres of sewer network across the North East.

Tampons had been flushed in Washington.

The impact of blockages can cause sewer flooding to homes, businesses, and outdoor areas, as well as odour problems and can pollute the environment, potentially harming innocent wildlife.

Rachael Caldwell, area environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “It's unbelievable the effects a single flush of the toilet could have on the environment.

“It's important for everybody to think twice about the lasting consequences our day-to-day routines can have on the world around us."

Here's a rundown of the worst TEN hot spot postal areas in the North East and a breakdown of blockages found in 2019:

1. NE34 – South Shields (313 blockages)

2. NE5 - Newcastle upon Tyne (199 blockages)

3. TS19 - Stockton-on-Tees (190 blockages)

4. DL1 - Darlington (184 blockages)

5. DH7 - County Durham (175 blockages)

6. SR8 - County Durham (170 blockages)

7. DL14 - County Durham (169 blockages)

8. NE23 - Northumberland / North Tyneside (168 blockages)

9. DH8 - County Durham (166 blockages)

10. TS10 - Redcar and Cleveland (163 blockages)