20 April 2021

Don’t feed the fatberg – that’s the plea from Goulburn Valley Water this autumn as peak sewer blockage season approaches.

As part of the ‘Don’t Flush It’ campaign, people are being reminded to only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and (toilet) paper to help avoid costly and damaging sewer blockages in homes and in the wider sewer network.

Flushing anything else – like wet wipes, cotton ear buds, tissues, sanitary products – can cause fatbergs, where these materials combine with fats, oils and grease tipped down drains to create sticky, solid blockages.

Even if the packaging says wet wipes are flushable, they’re often not – they don’t break down quickly in the sewer system like toilet paper does.

Blockages increased significantly during the first few months of the pandemic last year. Last April, Goulburn Valley Water recorded 78 blockages, the highest number in the past four years.

Overall yearly blockage numbers are also on the rise, with 641 in 2020, a 7% increase on 2019’s 599 blockages, and a 19% increase on 2018’s figure of 547.

Managing Director Steve Capewell said with more than 1324km of sewer mains in GVW’s service area, removing blockages was costly and time-consuming for staff.

“When we see an increase in blockages, it means our operational and maintenance teams are pulled away from other critical and priority works to repair blockages in the sewer mains or pump stations,” Dr Capewell said.

“We can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year removing blockages, so we are urging people to bin items that aren’t flushable to help prevent an increase in sewer blockages this year.”

Education Officer Kristy Elrington said GVW’s ‘Don’t Flush It’ campaign aims to inform residents that flushing everyday items that should go in the bin, is bad for the sewer system.

“In our tests which simulate the water flow in the sewer system, only toilet paper breaks down quickly – after 10 minutes, paper towels, tissues and wet wipes were still intact,” she said.

You can find more information and resources at our Don't Flush It page