While deep-fried dietary habits can be blamed for a bulk of the 40,0000 sewer blockages that occurred across Scotland in 2013, built-up deposits of improperly disposed cooking oil and grease aren’t the only headache-inducing items that utility Scottish Water grapples with on a daily basis.
As part of a public awareness campaign launched by Scottish Water in order to educate households on what not to dump down the drain or flush down the toilet, the publically owned utility has published a somewhat mind-blowing catalog of objects recovered from sewer systems. For starters, there’s the usual suspects like the aforementioned kitchen waste along with personal care items such as baby wipes, diapers, cotton swabs which, when combined, generate the “perfect storm of solidified fat and material that cannot break down easily in large clumps beneath Scotland's streets.”
The cost of tending to and remedying these blockages costs Scottish Water in the ballpark of £7 million (over $11 million).
And then there are decidedly more alarming items found clogging sewers that have either been intentionally or accidentally flushed down toilets, dumped directly into manholes, or somehow mysteriously appeared in the country’s sewer network: cell phones, false teeth, watches, clothing, action figures, a tractor tire, a fax machine, a pink bike, traffic cone, a mattress, golf balls, a boat motor, and a grisly menagerie of critters including a sheep (dead), a cow (dead), a snake (live), and a badger (live).
Most devastatingly, an oversized Winnie the Pooh teddy bear was also recovered from a clogged-up sewer in the Glasgow suburb of East Kilbride. Sad. That’s certainly no way for the most beloved resident of Sherwood Forest to go.
Chris Wallace, director of communications for Scottish Water, spells out the ultimate mission of the just-launched seven-week public awareness campaign, the largest ever for the utility:
The waste water drain which runs from your house to the public sewer is usually only about four inches wide, which is less than the diameter of a DVD. This drain is designed to take only the used water from sinks, showers and baths and pee, poo and toilet paper from the toilet. Scottish Water believes the best way to tackle blocked drains and sewer flooding is to work with our customers to prevent blockages that can clog up the cycle in the first place.
This water comes straight out of the tap and goes down the plughole and running a tap can use between two and 26 litres of water per minute.
Although Scotland has plentiful resources of raw water, the treatment and distribution of water is very energy intensive and the heating of water counts for a sizeable share of energy use. Research by the Department for Energy and Climate Change shows that 18% of domestic energy is used for heating water. By using less water you can save money — and with high energy prices it makes good sense for Scots to use water wisely.
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