30 September 2021

Goulburn Valley Water has welcomed the release of a draft international and Australian first standard to help prevent sewer blockages.

The new national standard will mean products are clearly labelled as to whether they can or cannot be flushed, and manufacturers will have specifications to test whether products are suitable for toilet flushing and sewer networks.

In a joint partnership with industry body Water Industry Operators Association, GVW has been part of the national technical working group, which consists of water utilities, peak industry bodies and manufacturers.

The number of blockages in GVW’s sewer network has decreased slightly this year compared to spikes in 2020 during lockdowns, but numbers are still higher compared to previous years. In August there were 43 blockages, while June and July recorded 50 and 58 respectively.

Sewer blockages can occur for a number of reasons, but the majority are caused by unflushable items like wet wipes and sanitary items that are flushed down the toilet and either get caught in pump stations, or mix with fats and oils tipped down the sink to create giant ‘fatberg’ blockages.

Goulburn Valley Water runs an educational program called Don’t Flush It, which aims to raise awareness around why it’s important to only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper.

GVW Managing Director Steve Capewell said sewer blockages caused by wet wipes and other unflushable items were a significant concern for water utilities nationally.

“The draft standard is a welcome step forward to help reduce the number of preventable sewer blockages we see every year,” Dr Capewell said.

“We spend tens of thousands of dollars each year removing blockages of tonnes of tangled wet wipes from inside sewer pump stations and sewer mains, so reducing that will mean our maintenance teams can focus on other tasks, instead of responding to preventable blockages.

“Blockages aren’t just an issue for us though – unflushable items like wet wipes can cause blockages in your home’s internal plumbing, which can be costly for you as well.”

People are encouraged to provide feedback by November 1 through the Standards Australia website at www.standards.org.au/news/flushable-products-colon-public-commenting-stage