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Bin the wipe! A wastewater industry menace.

If you asked anyone with any experience in the wastewater or plumbing industry what the biggest and most avoidable issue that a site engineer can face they would all undoubtedly say ‘Sanitary’, this category falls further than just feminine products but also includes wipes, cotton items such as buds, pads and balls etc.

Whilst the majority of these items come with the corresponding warning label advising not to flush and to safely dispose, one item often falls short of reasonable expectations and actually advertises itself as being ‘flushable’ and ‘biodegradable’. A blatant over exaggeration and it has soon become a formidable foe against efficient wastewater operation.

The vast majority of issues experienced with any kind of sewer network (domestic or private) can be attributed to the exploitation of the wastewater drains.

The 3Ps – A golden rule to flushing.

It was not long after I started working at R A Dalton I was first introduced to the term ‘The 3 Ps’ and since that day I have lived by this golden rule. I have to admit that before working here I was not one for reading the disposal methods on the rear of packaging and I dare say on more than one occasion I may have been guilty of flushing a wipe or cotton bud or two.

This was swiftly put to an abrupt halt learning of the 3 Ps, so what does this stand for you might ask? Well, this is the industry’s recommendations for what should be flushed down the drains!



(Toilet) Paper

Charming, am I right?

The logic behind this is due to the nature of the decomposition, whilst pee, poo and paper break down easily and rather quickly, cotton based products do not!

The cause and effect of flushing a wipe

You may be wondering what is the scale of damage caused by wipes and surely an occasional flush won’t do you any harm, well you couldn’t be more wrong! The effects of misuse can become evident at a rather alarming rate, wipes can easily snag on pipework and manholes meaning that before long this will build up.

Over the next few days/ weeks you will start to notice you toilets and sinks not draining well, a bit of funny smell will start emitting from the plugs and outside – oh dear! Congratulations you’ve won yourself a blockage!

Northumbrian Water has been one of the water authorities that have put a lot of time and effort into raising publicity for their ‘Bin the wipe’ campaign. If you live in the Northeast you may have seen one of their vehicles driving around with the slogan plastered across the sides, the campaign has even made an appearance on TV infomercials! They have a full webpage dedicated to providing information on why it is illegal (yes illegal!) to flush wipes – Bin the wipe (

But even this sadly hasn’t put an end to the destruction caused by sanitary items in the mains and private drains.

It is also pertinent to remember that whilst those on mains drainage pay for the sewers to be maintained this does not include for misuse, under the Water industry act 1991 it is illegal to flush any items that can be seen to be causing blockages.

On a private level – a little wrapped up in the pump station!

Even on a private sewage network you should not ignore this guidance, if anything you should heed this warning more as one wrong flush could very quickly become a rather costly affair!

If you have a sewage pump station installed on your property you are at high risk of experiencing issues should the wrong items be flushed. 9 times out of 10 our callouts to pump stations are to do with blockages, some customers are more lucky than others and it is a simple case of unblocking (still subject to a call out charge) however excessive wear on the pumps can cause the impellers to seize and even the electrical components to burn out. The costs to replace your pumps can vary from hundreds to even thousands of pounds, an invoice I’m sure most of us would rather not receive!

The risk of having a pump station non-operational is amplified in the fact that if this is not addressed as soon as possible then you may be at risk of causing severe environmental damage when flooding occurs. This is a clean up task that no one wants to participate in, having to be elbow deep in sewage is certainly not for the faint of heart…

However, it is not just pump stations that can be victim to the terror of the wipe, the biological treatment process on your package sewage treatment plant can also be effected by wipes wrapping round any diffuser pipework, hoses and generally blocking drainage.

So, our plea to you is to please think before you flush, save your pennies and the environment too!

More RA Dalton Waste Water News

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Bishop Auckland
County Durham
DL13 1DB

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Unit 10c,
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