We've found that the sewers in Post Office Lane, Cheltenham are blocked full of fat – again, it’s an issue that been going on for years.
We were called out by a local hairdresser who could no longer use their toilets, and when our team did a CCTV survey of the sewers, they discovered that the sewer was blocked full of fat, which was causing sewage to back up into the area. The blockage was all the way from Laura Leigh hairdressers right along to the pub at the other end of the street.
That’s a LOT of fat!
In the last year we've been called out to thousands of blockages in Gloucestershire, of which three quarters were caused by people misusing the sewer system. And in this area in particular, the problem isn’t getting any better.
Marcus Whyte, who works for our contractor Amey, said: “We’ve been unblocking sewers in this area for years and years, and every time we need a lorry to take away the fat we pull out of the sewers. We’ve tried educating the local businesses, but it hasn’t made any difference. The latest blockage, this week, was so completely solid it was like concrete and we had to physically dig it out.
“It’s easy to assume that the warm grease and fat left over from cooking would be ok to dump down the sink, as long as you wash it down with a lot of hot soapy water. But the reality is that quite quickly the fat and grease will cool and solidify, building up and blocking the drain or sewer as it has done in Post Office Lane. It’s much better for businesses to install a fat trap, and for people at home to wipe out any greasy pans with a bit of kitchen roll, and then put it in the bin. You can pour left over cooking grease into a pot or jar with a lid, or one of the free home fat traps that customers can request here.”
These sewer blockages, if not identified and cleared can lead to sewers backing up and overflowing into people’s homes and gardens, or in this case stop toilets from working as the sewer behind the blockage is full. And it’s not necessarily the people who put the wrong things down the toilet that are affected. The blockage can happen further down the street, so what you do in your home can be causing a problem for your neighbours. We're spending millions of pounds every year sending teams into sewers with jetting equipment and even sometimes, like in this case, with spades to dig out these blockages.
Marcus added: “Many customers may not realise that they are responsible for the waste pipe running away from their home up until it either crosses the property boundary or meets with another waste pipe or sewer. Unblocking or repairing this section of pipe can be costly, but avoidable, if you’re careful about what you put down your toilet or your sink. So please use a fat trap or the bin in the kitchen rather than washing fats and oils down the sink.”
There is a warning for businesses too - last year, we successfully prosecuted a business in the region for continually blocking the sewers with fat in a landmark case. Café Saffron in Church Rd, Codsall, was ordered to pay a total of £5,495, including costs, at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court. This is only the second example of such a case being brought in the UK, and was a first for Severn Trent. Prosecution is a last resort, but we will take that route where businesses are failing to listen to advice.