Of all of the unlikely things that we've found blocking the sewers and making their way to our sewage works over the years, this particular delivery to Hayden Sewage Works in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire had a very timely sporting connection. With Wimbledon in its first week, could they soon have a tennis ball shortage?
We were disposing of all of the things that end up at the sewage works such as baby wipes and other things that should really go into the bin, when we discovered this tennis ball.
Grant Mitchell, community relationship advisor in Gloucestershire, said: “We expect to see things turning up at the works that shouldn’t have been flushed, like baby wipes and cotton buds, but not tennis balls! How on earth someone has managed to flush a tennis ball down the loo, I don’t know, but this is just one example of the amazing things we find.
"These things will normally get stuck in the drains and sewers and cause blockages which then, if not identified and cleared can lead to sewers backing up and overflowing into people’s homes and gardens, which is a really horrible, but totally avoidable thing to happen.”
In the last year we've been called out to thousands of blockages in Gloucestershire, of which around three quarters were caused by people misusing the sewer system. And the figures for this area show that the situation isn’t getting much better.
Grant continued: “Having sewage flooding inside your home due to sewers being blocked is one of the most horrible things that can happen to you, and we don’t want our customers to suffer in this way, as it’s entirely preventable. The drains that take
waste water away from your home are only a few inches wide and are only meant to take the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper. Remember toilet roll is meant to break down when it gets wet so it washes easily through the system. That’s not the case with things like sanitary products, cleansing wipes or in this case tennis balls which can get stuck in smaller drains.
“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 could be causing a problem for your neighbours. We are spending millions of pounds every year sending teams into sewers with jetting equipment and sometimes even spades to dig out these blockages.
“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 get yourself a bin in the bathroom and kitchen and use that rather than the toilet. And if you have any spare tennis balls – donate them – I’m sure local schools or tennis clubs would love to have them.”
If you do run into problems, either slow drains or a blocked sewer which is Severn Trent’s responsibility you can report it here or by calling 0800 783 4444.