Top of the Blocks!

01 October 2019


Tens of thousands of avoidable blockages cause environmental pollution says Anglian Water.


Anglian Water engineers have cleared 40,575 blockages from the regions sewer network in the last 12 months, 85% of which are the result of unflushables including wet wipes and sanitary products, plus fats, oils and grease (FOG).


To mark the beginning of ‘Unblocktober’, a month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the problems caused by unflushables, the water company has revealed their Top Ten troublesome sewer blockages to highlight the wider issue which goes far beyond the region’s sewer network.


Figures from the last year have shown the amount of sewer blockages Anglian Water staff are finding and clearing totalled over 40,000, and cost almost £20million. Crucially some of these blockages are so severe they often cause sewer spills which can pollute homes, gardens and the local environment.


The Unblocktober campaign has been launched by Lanes Group Plc.  It is the world’s first month-long national campaign and awareness month aimed at improving the health of our drains, sewers, watercourses and seas - driven completely by the British public.


Programme manager of Anglian Water’s own Keep It Clear campaign Rachel Dyson said: “Our teams work hard all year round to finding and fixing blockages on our sewer network. We have enough sewer pipe in our region to go around the world twice, meaning our engineers remove an avoidable blockage nearly every five minutes in a bid to keep our sewers flowing.


“Wet wipes cause real problems in the sewer network which can have a devastating impact on our customers’ homes and the wider environment. They are by far the worst culprit, but cotton buds, tampons and fats also cause problems too.  


“Almost all of these blockages are entirely preventable, but instead lead to devastating sewage spills, can harm the environment and cost millions of pounds each year to clear. Ultimately this cost is added onto customers’ water bills and would be better spent elsewhere.”


Anglian Water’s Top 10 Sewer Blockages

1.   Ipswich Yorkshire puddings (Suffolk)

2.   Louth garden sewer flooding (Lincolnshire)

3.   Peterborough sewer blockage from frozen chips (Cambridgeshire)

4.   Lowestoft wet wipes monster (Suffolk)

5.   Cambridge Sewer Sausage (Cambridgeshire)

6.   Market Harborough fatberg (Leicestershire)

7.   Offord D’arcy blockage (Huntingdonshire)

8.   Houghton Regis blockage (Bedfordshire)

9.   Hockliffe blockage (Bedfordshire)

10. Northampton Sewer wet well blockage (Northamptonshire)


A study in 2017 found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages. These wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes and plastics – are not designed to be flushed.


Rachel continued: “We are delighted to be supporting Unblocktober which is a campaign close to our hearts at Anglian Water. Sewer blockages have been increasing in frequency in recent years and we estimate around 800 tonnes of unflushable items are being wrongly disposed of every week in the East of England.


“Although some of these images may look comical, this is the reality of what our teams face every day. This is why we urge people to not put anything down toilets unless it is pee, poo or (toilet) paper and all food waste should be put into food waste bins and not down sinks.”