Anglian Water is reminding people in Clacton to keep drains clear after underwear caused a blockage at one of its pumping stations last month.

The garment, which was wrongly disposed of down the drain, is not the only thing to cause a problem to the drainage network. Wipes and cooking fats are the biggest cause of avoidable blockages, but the water company says even expensive items likes mobile phones and wedding rings have been found in the sewers, and a recent third party poll1 estimated that 5,000 pairs of pants had to be cleared from the UK’s drains last year.

Anglian Water spends around £7 million a year keeping the sewers clear of blockages caused by wipes, fats and other culprits, which can result in devastating flooding to homes, gardens and the environment otherwise.

Anglian Water is now urging people not to use their toilet as a bin and to think before they flush to avoid blockages becoming a costly problem for customers’ own private sewer pipes and to avoid the horrible flooding that can occur as a result.

Emma Staples from Anglian Water said: “This particular item of underwear made it through the sewers but ended up choking one of our pumping stations instead. Thankfully, we were able to fix it quickly and nobody was flooded, but it could have been a different story.

“When we have severe storms, we need the sewers to be able to flow freely and work at maximum capacity. This means looking after our ‘underground arteries’ by keeping them clear of underwear, other debris, wipes and fats. We’ve found everything from false teeth, mobile phones – even money – down the drains. Wipes and cooking fats are the biggest problem though. These items combine and congeal underground forming rock hard ‘fatbergs’ that cost millions of pounds every year to shift.

“Our Keep It Clear campaign aims to raise awareness of blockages and encourage people to dispose of these items responsibly. The website,, offers lots of information and tips and people can order free sink strainers to stop food scraps blocking pipes too.

“We’ve been working closely with CVS Tendring to raise awareness of blockages and the Keep It Clear campaign among communities in Clacton and the surrounding areas. This has helped lead to a reduction of 60 per cent in blockages in parts of the town over the last year, but there is still more to do, as this recent issue has shown.”

Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear campaign was awarded the Business In The Community Sustainability Award earlier this year.

Customers should call Anglian Water on 08457 145145 immediately if they think they have a problem with their drains.