1 June 2020

People are being reminded to only flush the 3Ps after Goulburn Valley Water reported a more than 60% increase in sewer blockages in March and April.

Data shows that there were 61 blockages in March, compared to 38 for March in 2019 – an increase of 62%.

In April, there were 71 blockages, a 66% increase on the 2019 April figure of 51.

The spike is attributed to a recent increase in non-flushable items being flushed down the toilet, such as wet wipes, paper towels and tissues and even underwear.

Figures for May are currently trending steady when compared to last year, and GVW’s Operations Manager Steven Nash said he hoped it was a sign the ‘Don’t Flush It’ message was reaching people.

“These blockages are caused by non-flushable items in the system, for example when wet wipes – including those labelled ‘flushable’, paper towel, tissues or sanitary items are flushed down the toilet, and they get caught on tree roots, in pump stations or combine with fats and oils to create large fatbergs,” Mr Nash said.

“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.”

“We really need everyone to only flush the 3Ps to help prevent sewer blockages. These blockages can cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to remove, and that money and time could be better spent elsewhere.”

GVW Education Officer Kristy Elrington said GVW’s ‘Don’t Flush It’ campaign aimed to create understanding that there were only three things that can be flushed down the toilet – pee, poo and toilet paper.

“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.

“Things like wipes, paper towels, sanitary items, underwear and anything else that isn’t the 3Ps should go in the bin, and remember that blockages can be very costly to remove if they’re in your own home.”

Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) is backing the call to only flush the 3Ps, with Executive Director Adam Lovell saying Woolworths supermarkets had joined the campaign and put messaging in store to remind customers to only flush toilet paper.

“We know that practicing good hygiene is extremely important at this time - however, wet wipes, paper towel and tissues can create 'fatbergs' which result in blockages in the wastewater system and extra costs for water utilities and customers,” Mr Lovell said.

“We want our water utilities focused on providing the essential services we need right now – like high quality drinking water for handwashing.”

For more information, visit www.gvwater.vic.gov.au/community/education/dont-flush-it

To find out more about WSAA’s campaign, visit: www.wsaa.asn.au