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Keep wipes out of pipes, urges water firm19th of November 2012
The increasing popularity of wet wipes as a toilet tissue replacement is causing blockages in the sewers, according to a UK water authority.
Thames Water claims the wipes will not break down when flushed away - even when sold in packs labelled "flushable" - and that they should be discarded along with regular waste.
The wipes also cause problems when they meet hardened food fat in the sewage pipes, say sources. When warm fat is rinsed away down household sinks it cools and then sets, creating hard "fatbergs" in the sewers. Wet wipes may subsequently stick to these congealed fatbergs which can lead to more serious blockages.
Thames Water, which spends £12m a year cleaning blockages from its 108,000km (67,000 mile) sewer network across London and the Thames Valley, claims that its workers are having to remove wet wipes from pipes and take them away to be buried at landfill sites.
"In some cases these wipes are leading to sewage backing up into people homes and gardens," said Nick Sumption from Thames Water.
The company is urging wet wipe users to switch to a new moistening foam called Freshu since this can be used in conjunction with regular toilet paper. Thames Water has been in talks with the team of Oxford University entrepreneurs behind Freshu, and the product can now be bought via the water authority's website.
The wet wipe market is growing at a rate of more than 15 per cent a year according to research company Nielsen.