‘Severe blockage’ sparks NI Water toilet flush warning in Creggan

Rags in the sewer at Creggan Heights.
Rags in the sewer at Creggan Heights.

Derry residents have been warned about flushing wipes and sanitary items down toilets following the latest in a series of “severe blockages.”

NI Water issued the warning yesterday after they were called to Creggan Heights to tackle the latest in “many” incidents over the past five months, which “once again caused out of sewer flooding”.

Water officials said that back in November, following reports of a blocked sewer in the area, staff found what they described was an “unbelievable amount of wipes in the sewer.”

NI Water received further reports of out of sewer flooding in Creggan Heights following a period of heavy rainfall in early March. An NI Water team attended the area and cleared a large blockage from the sewer. The blockage was a ball of rags, made up primarily of baby wipes and sanitary items, which, combined with the heavy rainfall, caused the sewer to overflow.

Gavin McCready, sewerage manager for the area said: “This incident is an unwelcome reminder of the unpleasant impact of putting the wrong things down the sewer. The most common cause of blockages are baby wipes and sanitary items.

“To provide a sense of scale, a trunk sewer pipe, which takes wastewater from hundreds of homes, can be in the region of 300mm in diameter. A pipe coming from the home is much smaller, measuring only 100mm in diameter and can easily block when inappropriate items such as wipes, cotton buds and sanitary ware are flushed. These items are designed to absorb water and as such they do not break down the way toilet paper does. If enough customers are flushing them at one time, the chances of a blockage was quite high.”

Mr. McCready said such blockages and out of sewer flooding were ‘extremely unpleasant.’

“We have all seen the disgusting effects of an overflowing manhole and no one wants to see or smell it, but we all have the power to stop it. Taking simple measures and only flushing the 3Ps – paper, poo and pee - will help alleviate the avoidable problem of blocked sewers,” he said.

“In the last 10 years, NI Water has spent over £1.5 billion investing in water and wastewater infrastructure but no amount of investment will completely stop blocked pipes if people continue to dump rubbish, flush wipes, sanitary items and cotton buds down the toilet.”

Residents will receive a leaflet drop over the coming days, while a further CCTV investigation will also be carried out to check everything is running clearly.