Anglian Water sewer study uncovers tonnes of unflushables

26 October 2020


As part of the national awareness campaign Unblocktober, Anglian Water engineers last month cleared and cleaned an entire length of sewer pipe in one part of their region finding over four-and-a-half tonnes of unflushables – equating to around eight bags of sugar per metre of the pipeline.


The water company removed the unflushable including fats, oils, sanitary items, wet wipes, and more, from a 600m stretch of sewer pipes in Canvey Island over a period of 12 days. If replicated across the rest of its network that would be enough to fill 50 large swimming pools.


The study comes as part of this month’s Unblocktober national campaign, an awareness month aimed at improving the health of the country’s drains, sewers and watercourses and seas – driven by the British public.


In order to evaluate the contents of the pipe, Anglian’s team of experts cleared the 600m-long sewer between its water recycling centre and approximately 150 local homes, taking out waste and weighing it daily for a week to understand the extent of the issue, and to identify areas that are at a greater risk of blockages.


The region has over 76,000km of sewers network and Anglian deals with 40,000 blockages every single year. This equates to one blockage every 15 minutes - of which 80% are avoidable due to the wrongful disposal of unflushable materials, and they cost the company a whopping £19 million a year.


Ben Hatfield-Wright, Anglian’s Water Recycling Networks Efficiency Manager, said: “Blockages are a real problem and wrongfully disposing of food waste, wet wipes or sanitary products cause serious flooding or pollution to the environment.


“Across the region, 12 of our 300 catchment areas account for around 80 per cent of our time, so it’s a problem area for us and this particular length of sewer in Canvey Island is one of them.”


“The ‘Flush to Treatment’ approach is targeting key areas we class as high-risk and can help us to give assurances that the network is working as it should and identify areas for future investment. We’re working closely with several different teams within the business to ensure that our approach is the most effective it can be.


“To complete a study like this was a fantastic opportunity - and one we seldom get on this scale - for us to have a closer look inside our network to really see what is going on, and it will allow us to accurate utilise, predict and inform further work on the network moving forward,” Ben continued.


Anglian Water has a regular maintenance programme for its sewer network. This work is prioritised according to the risk posed by potential blockages at a given location, and sees engineers using high powered jets to clear pipes in order to keep the network flowing.


Unblocktober encourages people to make small changes to their habits and the way they dispose of certain everyday items in order to make big changes to the environment. To find out more about Unblocktober and how to get involved, visit their website at


To watch our video of the Flush to Treatment process in action, click here.