Basildon and Canvey Island are being targeted as part of Anglian Water’s approach to tackling the thousands of sewer blockages and flooding caused by people putting the wrong things down sinks and loos.

In Basildon and Canvey Island there were around 300 of these avoidable blockages last year.

Residents and businesses are now being asked to dispose of fats, oils and unflushable items, like wipes, responsibly as part of Anglian Water’s ‘Keep It Clear’ campaign. Letters are being sent to more than 30,000 homes across Basildon and Canvey Island, asking people to put items like sanitary waste and wipes into their black bin bags and not down the loo.

Keeping pipes clear means the sewers are able to work at their optimum capacity. This means during heavy downpours, water can drain away more easily than if the sewers are blocked by fats, oils and wipes.

Fats quickly cool and solidify once down the drain, blocking the pipes. When this fat also combines with wipes and other sanitary items which should not be flushed down the toilet, those blockages can form giant ‘fatbergs’ that are even harder to shift.

Unfortunately, even some wipes labelled ‘flushable’ or ‘biodegradable’ don’t break up fast enough to make it through the water recycling process, and with one in every two adults in the UK purchasing some kind of wipe, it’s a rapidly growing problem meaning tens of millions of wipes are finding their way into the sewers.

More than half of the 30,000 sewer blockages Anglian Water has to clear each year are caused by fats and unflushable items being wrongly placed in the sewers. Clearing them costs Anglian Water more than £7 million a year, which is on top of the wider social and economic cost of damage caused by sewer flooding and environmental pollution.

Rachel Dyson, Anglian Water’s Programme Manager for Keep It Clear, 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.

“Many people do the right thing already; recycling used cooking oil and food waste where possible and placing sanitary products in the bin.

“This 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.”

Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services will be working with Anglian Water to help get the message to residents and adverts will appear in areas of Basildon and Canvey Island.

Ann-Marie Fordham, Senior Team Leader, of Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services, said: “We have joined forces with Anglian Water to help promote the correct disposal of household waste to protect our sewers, the environment and keep the water flowing and the sewer system clear to do its job of taking used water and sewage safely away from our homes and businesses. It’s in all our interests to look after our sewers and drains correctly.”

Last Friday, Anglian Water was at Seevic College in Benfleet, talking to students about the Keep it Clear campaign alongside Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services who were looking to recruit student volunteers.

Essex residents can contact Anglian Water for advice by visiting www.keep-it-clear.co.uk. Customers are also reminded to call Anglian Water on 03457 145145 immediately if they think they have a problem with their drains.