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25.04.2018, 16:47

Teletubbies, Toys, Boxer Shorts, Dental Instruments Blocking Britain's Sewers

Company News, Water Services & Systems, Energy, Water & Waste, EMEA
Drainage industry professionals at Lanes for Drains - part of Lanes Group, the UK’s largest drainage contractor, have been sharing some of the strangest items they have found in the UK’s drains and sewers over the past couple of years, as part of a drive to encourage the public to think more about what they put down the drain.


Some of the more unusual things found during recent excursions underground include litres of blood, Teletubbies toys, boxer shorts, dentists' tools, a shovel, a traffic cone, and bottles of nail varnish.


The Whitechapel Fatberg is the star attraction at the Museum of London's Monster of Whitechapel exhibition which runs until 1 July 2018. (Visit
The Whitechapel Fatberg is the star attraction at the Museum of London's Monster of Whitechapel exhibition which runs until 1 July 2018. (Visit © Museum of London
According to previous research by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater), utilities companies have previously discovered bizarre objects such as prosthetic limbs, half a car, motorbikes, false teeth and a settee, in the drains and sewers.


There are some things that end up in the sewers that the public cannot control, however. Animals often find themselves in the sewer system, and Lanes for Drains engineers have recently stumbled across a fox, as well a duck that made its home among the sewage, and Spencer the spaniel, who was stuck in a drain for three days before being rescued.


Michelle Ringland, Head of Marketing at Lanes for Drains, said: “Some of the things our engineers find on what are expected to be routine inspections is quite amazing. On the face of it, some of the items found can be humorous - but sadly there is nothing funny about crumbling sewers, flooded homes and roadworks as our experts remove the blockages. We have been using the hashtag #thinkaboutit to encourage the public to do just that - think carefully about what they put down the drain.”


This comes after the excavation of the ‘monster’ Whitechapel fatberg - a 130-tonne, 250-metre mass of congealed fat, oil, grease and ‘unflushable’ items such as wet wipes, condoms and sanitary products, that was removed at a cost estimated to be upwards of £1 million.


Lanes Group worked alongside Thames Water to excavate the fatberg, which is just one of some 400-600 fatbergs that the company tackles every single month.


Michelle said: “While the likes of Teletubbies, boxer shorts and dentist tools capture the imagination, the reality is the much bigger threat to the sewer system is the lack of awareness among the public of the dangers of putting what we call the 12 ‘Main Offenders’ down our drains.


“They are: fats, oils and grease (FOG); wet wipes; nappies and pads; sanitary products; tampons, applicators and wrappers; condoms; razor blades; bandages and plasters; dental floss; medicines and syringes; cotton buds; and hair.”


To improve awareness of what should and should not go down the drain, the company recently launched the ‘Fatberg Fighters’ campaign, working with a range of schools across the country to teach children about how to treat our drainage system with care, so they can in turn teach their families good practice.


This comes after a survey conducted by Lanes for Drains found that 46% of the nation pour cooking oil or fat down the sink. 


The list of potential problems caused by blockages and fatbergs, includes:  

●        Sewer blockages

●        Structural damage to sewers and drains

●        Sewage floods

●        Extensive local flooding during heavy rain – disruption to travel, businesses

●        Higher insurance premiums for local homeowners

●        Higher water bills for local homeowners

●        Health risks from sewage spills

●        Pollution damage to natural water courses

●        Environmental/wildlife risks as a result of plastics found in wipes and other products in fatbergs

●        Health risks posed to drainage engineers while removing fatbergs


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