By Drain Doctor on 28/01/2016

A major blockage at Guernsey Water’s St Sampson’s pumping station over Christmas was caused by islanders disposing of rags and wet wipes down the toilet, according to a recent report on ITV News.

The blockage prompted the water company to issue a warning to its customers to dispose of wet wipes in the bin. This is sage advice that we at Drain Doctor have often promoted.

Impregnated toilet papers, ‘wet wipes’ and similar innovations are leading to increasing numbers of blocked drains. We often receive calls from householders who may have happy bottoms but are unable to flush their toilets.

The problem is particularly significant in towns and cities with large areas of Victorian housing served by Victorian drains and sewers.

These new papers and wipes are not broken down by the flushing action in the same way as conventional toilet papers – they do not shear as easily. They therefore remain as whole sheets which can cause blockages if the flush does not clear them out of the drain and into the sewer.

There is a particular problem in older houses because the Victorians over-engineered everything. They put in 6 inch diameter drains where 4 inch diameter would have been quite large enough.

This was OK when used with Victorian toilets because they were over-engineered as well – they released huge quantities of water when they were flushed.

Modern cisterns use much less water. This is not usually a problem because it is still enough to shear normal toilet paper and flush all the detritus through to the sewer. With some of these new wipes and papers, though, material is left in the pipes and gradually builds up to create a blockage.

It’s good for our business because we are getting an increasing number of calls but it would save householders like those in Guernsey money and inconvenience if they gave more thought to what they are flushing down the toilet.