Special report: Goose is getting fat, and so are Grantham’s sewers

Watkin's colleagues Lorraine Everton, Hannah Wing, Georgia Eyre and Linda Newell show off the 'gunk pots' and leaflets they are giving out with orders.
Watkin's colleagues Lorraine Everton, Hannah Wing, Georgia Eyre and Linda Newell show off the 'gunk pots' and leaflets they are giving out with orders.
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Christmas is that time of year when we all like to indulge, but to coincide with the increase in fatty foods cooked during the festive season a campaign has been launched highlighting the £7 million annual cost of clearing up our sewers from giant ‘fatbergs’, along with a range of bizarre items including fake teeth, half a car, and a settee.

With their ‘Keep It Clear’ campaign Anglian Water are urging homeowners across the region to bin fat rather than pour it down the sink, to help prevent sewers and drains becoming blocked and causing bad smells - or worse still, flooding.

Photo of a 'fatberg' found in sewers by Anglian Water.

Photo of a 'fatberg' found in sewers by Anglian Water.

The combination of a rise in fatty foods and cold weather makes the issue particularly problematic at this time of year, with roasting turkeys and trimmings creating around 250 tonnes of leftover fat, equivalent to one million blocks of butter or two blue whales.

Although fat slides easily down the sink when warm, it quickly cools and hardens underground, coating the sewer walls and restricting the flow of water and waste, thus increasing the risk of blockages or flooding.

Emma Staples of Anglian Water said: “Christmas is one of our busiest times of the year. We have hundreds of staff across the region working over the holidays to help clear blockages and prevent flooding. This year, we’re asking customers to work with us to trim the fat that finds its way into our sewer network.”

She added: “A blocked sink or drain is always horrible, but even more so at Christmas. Yet a big rise in fat-related blockages is exactly what we see at this time of year.”

Grantham businesses have been getting involved in the campaign, including popular butchers Watkin’s.

The family firm on Westgate have been praised by Anglian Water for their forward-thinking in putting cards with the slogan ‘Stop and Think, Not Down The Sink’ in with customers’ orders.

Manageress of Watkin’s Linda Newell said: “We were approached by the campaigners and thought it was a great idea. In the business we are always very careful with where the fat from our meat goes, and we could see this was a good way to encourage others to do the same at home.”

They have also been giving out ‘gunk pots’ which can be placed in sinkholes to collect all the fats, oils and greases which cause blockages.

These bind with all the other items that have been wrongly placed down the drain, such as wipes and the unflushables people don’t rescue when they fall down the loo.

More than half of the 35,000 blockages Anglian Water clears each year are caused by fats and wipes, and cost the company over £7 million annually to put right.

Anglian Water have also released a list of a range of unusual items found in drains, with false teeth, mobile phones and bank cards among the most common.

More unusual still are the discoveries of a dead cow, piranha fish, football net, settee and half a mini motor car in the sewers.

To spread the message Anglian Water have been working wth Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service (LCVS) to promote the campaign among as many community groups and businesses in Grantham as possible.

At the forefront of the efforts to raise awareness is Heidi Haxeltine, community development officer at LCVS, who said: “There are some catchy slogans ‘To avoid a stink, put only water down your sink!’ and ‘To avoid block pipes, bin pads, tampons and wipes!’; as well as some wonderfully gross pictures of ‘fatbergs’ down the sewers....that really makes people think again about just pouring hot fat down their sinks.

“It’s one of those things that most of us have just never thought about, but everyone I’ve talked with says they will put their hot cooking fat into a container to cool and then into the bin from now on!”

The volunteers are also available to give talks about the issue in the Grantham area, or set up stands at events with free give-aways and raffles of sink strainers, neon bins, and ‘gunk pots’.

If you would like to get involved in the campaign contact Heidi on Heidi.h@lincolnshirecsv.org.uk or call 07880 505630

Anglian Water customers can also order a free sink strainer to stop scraps going down the plughole and get lots of extra tips s by visiting www.keep-it-clear.co.uk

They are also reminded to call Anglian Water on 03457 145145 if they’re experiencing any problems with drains or see signs of flooding.

Anglian Water has highlighted not only the £7 million annual cost to the company, but also to customers.

A spokesman said: “Down the drain and out of sight is definitely not out of mind. The result is often bad smells or worse, sewage backing up in homes and gardens.

“And if you thought it couldn’t get any worse, if it’s your private drain that is blocked with fat, it can also be very expensive as these pipes are the responsibility of the homeowner. So it really does pay to keep the pipes clear.

“By following a few simple steps we can reduce the chance of blockages and prevent this unpleasant problem affecting our holidays.

“It doesn’t take much: let fat in baking trays cool before scraping it into the bin. Put food leftovers in the bin or composter too. Finally, give your crockery, pans and tins a quick wipe with kitchen towel before loading the dishwasher or doing the washing up to remove greases.

“They might be small changes, but if we all do our bit it will make a big difference to preventing sewers from blocking – so the only leftovers you see this Christmas will be for the bubble and squeak.”

FESTIVE FAT FACTS

** One million turkeys will be eaten in the Anglian Water region this Christmas.

** The fat from cooking all these roasts weighs in at around 250 tonnes, equivalent to one million blocks of butter or two blue whales.

** There are 20,000 tonnes of fat in our sewers at any one time - the size of eight Olympic swimming pools.

l63 per cent of this fat comes from households.

** Data from Anglian Water and the Water Services Regulation Authority Ofwat data reveals that there was a total of 366,500 blockages in 2012/2013.

** The figures also reveal that the total cost to water companies to clear up avoidable blockages in 2012/2013 was £61.6 million. The proportion of sewer flooding incidents caused by blockages was 80 per cent.

** Cleansing wipes are the other most common cause of blockages, with one in every two adults in the UK purchasing some kind of wipe.