Do your bit

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Members of the public can help keep the sewerage system in their area flowing by thinking about what material they are putting down the toilet or sink. Putting inappropriate material into the system can cause blockages which lead to flooding or trigger a stormwater overflow to operate.

South West Water spends about £4.5million a year clearing 8,500 blocked sewers.

Blockages can be caused by  inappropriately flushing baby wipes, hygiene wipes, cleaning wipes, cleansing pads and sanitary products as well as disposing of cooking fat, oil, grease and leftover food via the sink. Blocked sewers can cause flooding, which is extremely unpleasant especially if it happens in your home, and can be easily avoided.

Other items that have been removed from sewers after causing a blockage include:

  • Underwear and clothing
  • Fishing rod
  • Bicycle wheel
  • A greenhouse - broken into its component parts and dropped down a manhole
  • Concrete blocks and bricks
  • Toys
  • Drain rods and other tools including spanners
  • Cutlery

For more information see and  


It is important to make sure that your home has been plumbed correctly. Misconnections happen when homes or businesses have wrongly connected their plumbing into the surface water system, which eventually discharges into rivers or streams, instead of the public sewerage network to be treated.

This can range from something as simple as a wrongly connected washing machine or dishwasher to something more serious, such as toilet waste or even whole estates feeding into surface water drains.

Misconnections can occur when a house is extended, when people make other home improvements or when a new house is built. 

Five things you can do to help

Following South West Water's massive £2 billion 'Clean Sweep' programme, we're keen to do all we can to preserve and build upon the huge transformation it's made to the region's bathing water quality. We are working with the Environment Agency and local councils to tackle the problem of misconnections, which means pollution from the home often makes it inadvertently into rivers and sometimes onto local beaches.

Customers can play their part in eliminating sewer blockages by observing the following ways to help.

Top Tip

What to do

Get a Fat Trap

As an alternative to pouring fat, oil and grease down the sink, the best method is empty left over material into a container such as a fat trap. This sealable plastic tub collects fats and oils whilst it cools and solidifies. The contents can then be disposed of in the bin. For more information visit South West Water's website.

Don't put inappropriate material down the toilet It may appear as though items such as cotton buds and nappies have disappeared but the reality is they could be lurking around the U-bend - blocking your loo. For more advice visit Love You Loo.
Check your washing machine or dishwasher is properly connected to the sewer Misconnections to the surface water system can occur when a house is extended, when people make other home improvements or when a new house is built. Visit for more information.
If you see obvious signs of pollution report it Contact the Environment Agency or South West Water.
If you know of any private overflows which could be affecting water quality, then please also report it Contact the Environment Agency or South West Water.