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Vital highway gully cleaning supports winter road safety 02/08/2021

Drainage and water utilities specialist, Lanes Group, is carrying out a six-month programme of gully cleaning along main roads in North East Scotland.

The cleaning work is an essential part of a planned and preventative maintenance programme (PPM) to prevent localised flooding which can make roads less safe.
Lanes has been commissioned to carry out the gully cleaning by road maintenance provider BEAR Scotland, on behalf of Transport Scotland.

The programme covers all trunk roads in the North East Scotland highways region and runs from October 2019 to March 2020.

Lanes' area development manager, Alan Watt, said: “The gully cleaning is carried out every year during autumn and winter.

“It’s an essential part of the highways PPM programme to ensure roadside drains do not become blocked preventing the free flow of rainwater.

“Pooling of water on the carriageway is both a road hazard and contributes to traffic congestion. As climate change leads to more volatile weather and more heavy periods of heavy rain, this work is more important than ever.”

The gully cleaning is being carried out at night under traffic management. The capacity Lanes has to carry out road drainage work at night is a major benefit for clients because of reduced impact on road users.

Lanes has committed to empty an average of 110 gully chambers during every shift. Debris sucked up from the highway drains is taken to an authorised waste disposal site.

If highway gullies are not regularly cleaned out, silt and other debris that builds up inside them increases the risk of the pipework being damaged.

It allows plants to grow in gully chambers and sustains roots that find their way into highway drains through cracks and displaced joints.

Over time, this can contribute to major root blockages along many metres of highway drains. It can also cause further cracking and even the collapse of pipes, resulting in the need for more costly repairs.

Lanes Group has a fleet of modern and highly effective specialist vehicles for highway drainage maintenance. They include recycler jet vac tankers for water jetting and vacuumation that can filter and reuse their water. This makes them more sustainable and more productive, because they can stay on station for longer without refilling water tanks. This, in turn, reduces their carbon footprint.

Lanes also has ultra-high vacuumation tankers for removing large volumes or wet and dry material, including stones and rubble, from highway culverts.


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Watch out for drain strain this winter 09/11/2021

When winter does its worst, it’s time to issue a blockage warning. But as Richard Leigh, development director at Lanes Group explains, drain maintenance is now an all-year-round priority

The beast is coming back. The Beast from the East, that is. The latest long-range weather forecast predicts a tough winter from January 2020 onwards, with temperatures plunging to Siberian levels.

For cleaning contractors and facilities managers, if it happens, this presents some big challenges. For drain maintenance and cleaning, the challenges can be particularly acute.

Extreme weather is not good for drains and sewers. The problems that occur in autumn and winter can begin in the summer. Hotter, drier summers, predicted by experts, can cause the soil to shrink, leading to underground pipes being displaced and cracked. This can allow debris to snag on rough edges. Meanwhile, lower water flows through drains can result in debris building up.

When the heavy rains return, the debris can form blockages. This contributes to localised flooding, blocking roads, covering car parks, and swamping facilities like logistics park aprons and retail parks.

Increased volatility of weather is adding another dimension. Flooding can now occur in the summer, as it did across northern England in August 2019.

FOG – the festive menace

Drains are also, by their nature, hidden assets. Many have been developed and added to ad-hoc over decades, if not centuries. Plans are often incomplete, inaccurate or non-existent.

Even experienced drainage engineers have difficulty diagnosing some drain problems, while property managers can under-estimate risks. For example, in August, we were called out to a high-tech manufacturing site in Lancashire. Standing water was threatening to get into a building. The FM team had called us just in time. The flood had been caused by a flap valve, not on the site drainage map, that had become blocked. 

Commercial premises face the same drainage threats as domestic ones, if not more so. Fats, oils and grease (FOG) are a prime cause of blockages. FOG combines with wipes and other items wrongly flushed down toilets to create major blockages, sometimes fatbergs.

From October onwards, as festive nights out get underway, FOG can be an even bigger menace. Ignorance of the way drains work can exacerbate problems greatly. 

In Manchester, we attended a flood at a fast-food restaurant. Cooking grease had blocked the drain. Three feet of filthy water rapidly filled the basement.

The restaurant team had not realised foul and surface water drains for several businesses and residential properties funnelled into one shared outfall. It was a lesson learned the hard way.

You would think, then, that being proactive is a good thing. But taking matters into your own hands can backfire. DIY drain rods lost down drains is a perennial problem. Trying to clear drains with various concoctions of chemicals (we’ve found people putting petrol down drains) can cause a hazchem risk and is not likely to clear a stubborn blockage. Regular blockages and sewer flooding are often a sign of failing drain management not poor drain design.

For example, leaf fall and silt debris left in surface water gully pots, along with winter grit washed down drains, can contribute to localised flooding. Many food outlets do not have grease traps. In fact, most businesses do not have effective planned and preventative drainage maintenance (PPM) strategies for their drains.

Older drains – bigger problems

In some cases, the age and condition of a drainage system makes cleaning and maintaining particularly difficult. Old concrete pipes have pitted sides which also snag debris, allowing blockages to build up. Pitch fibre drains, common in the 1930s to 1950s, because they were cheap, are prone to deformation and collapse. 

One response may be to excavate and replace the pipes, though this may not be possible if pipes are under buildings. A less expensive, faster and less disruptive option is to line pipes.

In a recent case, we lined 250 metres of pitch fibre pipe at a primary school near Inverness. The school had suffered multiple closures due to drainage problems. Once the pipes were lined, the problem was solved.

Lining up sewer solutions

It is not all doom and gloom. There is more technology than ever before to assist in drain cleaning and maintenance. As already described, installing cured in place pipelines (CIPP) is often a highly effective way to repair pipes, reduce blockage risks, and on-going pipe cleaning costs.

One of the most effective options is to install ultraviolet (UV) CIPPs. These use UV light to cure resin impregnated in the liner to create a tough, impermeable new pipe-within-a-pipe. UV lining needs less operational space, is fast, and creates minimal waste.

One of the newest technologies is LED light CIPP. This can be used in pipes with diameters of 150mm and under and ones with bends with all the benefits of UV lining.

Cured in place pipelines (CIPP) can be installed in pipes of pretty much any diameter. Short ones, under two metres long, are called patch liners. Full liners can be more than 200 metres long.

Give your blockage the chop

Blockage risks and on-going reactive maintenance costs can also be controlled by effective pipe cleaning. The most common method used is water jetting. For in-building pipes, however, water jetting is often too risky, and electro-mechanical cleaning is preferred.

One of the latest devices is the Picote cutter, designed for cleaning and unblocking smaller diameter pipes. It is a flexible rod system with a cutting head that can be fitted with abrasive wheels, flails or tungsten teeth. Powered by an electric motor, it can be guided many metres into a pipe to remove urine scale, soap and rust deposits or cut through blockages.

For larger pipes, there are robotic cutters, such as the latest ProKASRO range of electric robots. These have diamond-encrusted milling heads. Then there are clever devices, like the Hachler Climb, that can climb up pipes and round bends before getting to work.

Calling in a specialist to use these advanced drain clearing solutions represents an investment that, if used wisely, will be repaid with reduced reactive maintenance costs and happier service users.

Planning – the best drain defence

Taking precautions through the application of an appropriate PPM strategy, in its broadest form, is the best defence against drain and sewer problems in the coming winter months. Key steps include making sure you understand your drainage system.

The best way to achieve this is to commission a drainage specialist to carry out a full site CCTV drainage survey. This will establish the physical extent, connectivity and capacity of your drainage system, and its condition. You will also get recommendations for a priority list of remedial actions, if any are needed.

Take clearly defined measures to discourage staff, customers and visitors from flushing wipes and other items down toilets. This may include providing bins and signage.

Any premises that prepare food, for customers or staff, should have measures to prevent FOG getting into drains. This should include fitting grease traps and having effective food waste management procedures.

Site maintenance, including clearing leaf fall and mulch and ensuring drain covers are securely in place, both at ground level and on roofs, is also vital.

If in doubt, contact a reputable local drainage specialist. They will be happy to share expertise. If the Beast from the East (or whatever the newspapers call it this time) does fall upon us, we can be prepared.

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Hazardous waste removed in site clean-up project 27/08/2019

Water jetting and vacuumation carried out by Lanes Group plc operatives has cleared a large area of an engineering storage site of waste after drainage channels became blocked.

The industrial cleaning project was completed in less than a day, with an estimated five tonnes of waste and water taken away for safe disposal at an authorised site.

The engineering firm called in a team from the Lanes Aberdeen depot after finding a corner of its facility had become contaminated by regular flooding with wastewater.

A scoping survey indicated that a drainage channel linked to a foul drain had become blocked, causing water to back up, especially after periods of heavy rain.

Lanes Aberdeen area development manager Mark Morrice said: “Our client agreed with our advice that the blockage material should be treated as hazardous waste and removed with care."

This involved "deploying an industrial cleaning team using the appropriate personal and respiratory protective equipment alongside technology that allowed the waste to be removed remotely wherever possible".

Waste matter had built up where the area had flooded several times. There was a risk that particulate matter could present a health risk if it was disturbed and become airborne.

Therefore, during the clean-up operation, which took about six hours, the waste was damped down and the resulting liquid was vacuumed up by a Lanes jet vac tanker.

Once this was achieved water jetting could be used in conjunction with vacuumation to clear the surface water channels and underground drains along a 25-metre-long section of the site.

During the process, operatives wore full body suits, protective gloves and respiratory masks – while the site was carefully controlled to ensure no-one else could have contact with hazardous material.

Mark Morrice said: “Our use of water jetting and vacuumation ensured the risk of personal contact with the waste was minimised and the clean-up operation was completed as safely and quickly as possible.

“As a drainage specialist we can bring to bear skills and resources that can be applied to a wide range of industrial cleaning tasks, including industrial tank cleaning, surface cleaning, and structure decontamination.”


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TV show films fatberg fighters 25/06/2019

A popular TV show revealing the grimy side of life in Britain has shown wastewater engineers working for Lanes Group battling fatbergs in London sewers.

The highly-skilled and dedicated sewer ‘flushers’ were filmed tackling the large fat blockages on behalf of Thames Water for the documentary series Grime and Punishment.

Major challenges they face removing tonnes of cooking oil, fat and grease, congealed with wet wipes and other debris, were revealed on the prime-time Channel 5 programme in episode 2, which was shown on 20th June.

Lanes is the wastewater network service maintenance partner for Thames Water. Its trunk sewer walking team is at the forefront of efforts to keep London’s sewers flowing freely.

Andy Howard, the special projects manager who plans and oversees their work, said: “We hope the programme will give an up-front and in your face insight into what it takes to remove other people’s waste from sewers.

“It takes professionalism, not least in terms of safe working, and a good dollop of humour to wade through a working day up to your knees in fat, wipes and poo, so I’m sure the programme will be very watchable.”

One sewer cleaning project filmed by the documentary makers needed a team of 10 personnel, using high-tech jetting and vacuumation equipment and a lot of elbow grease to clear a sewer that was 50% blocked with fat.

It took two days to clear the blockage along a 12-metre length of Victorian egg-shaped brick sewer in Rotherhithe, South East London, which was 1.2 metres high and 0.8 metres wide.

Lanes personnel wore mini digital camera to show viewers what conditions were like inside the sewer as they shovelled tonnes of gloopy fat into a powerful vacuumation hose.

Thames Water hopes the programme will encourage more people to observe its request to ‘Bin it – don’t block it’ to keep sewers clear of unnecessary waste.

Andy Howard said: “I’m sure many viewers will find it entertaining, but I hope it also makes them think twice before pouring oils and fats down sinks and flushing wipes down toilets. If they didn’t it would make our jobs a lot easier.”

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Almost half of Brits still pour fats down drains 09/07/2019

Awareness of fatbergs is at an all-time high, but that has not stopped almost half the nation choosing to pour cooking oil and fat down the kitchen sink, according to new research from LanesforDrains.co.uk.

In a national survey of more than 1,200 people, the UK drainage contractor found that 77% of people know what a fatberg is, compared with 61% in 2018 and 47% in 2017, yet 48% of Britons still admit to pouring fats, oils and grease (FOG) down the drains and sewers.

The rise is largely thanks to media attention, with 39% of people first hearing about fatbergs on the national news and 13% seeing TV shows dedicated to the phenomenon.

Fatbergs are the equivalent of an iceberg, found down the sewer and consisting of a congealed, solid mass of fats, oils and grease (FOG) that have been poured down the drain and sewers, as well as non-biodegradable items that are regularly flushed, such as sanitary products, wet wipes, condoms and cotton buds.

46% of women surveyed by Lanes admitted to flushing tampons down the toilet, while 20% of men have flushed a condom down the toilet. 79% of people admitted to washing paintbrushes used for decorating in sinks

48% of people have flushed wet wipes labelled as “flushable”, despite the fact many of these wipes never disintegrate and can end up clogging sewers and riverbeds.

Blue Planet II has largely been credited with changing the nation’s behaviour in terms of raising awareness of plastics and how they can harm marine life. 40% of people in the survey watched the show and 57% of them said they had subsequently reduced the amount of plastic bags they use as a result, while 52% of viewers also said they recycle more.

But plastic is not always visible and many everyday items contain hidden plastics, such as wet wipes and sanitary products. These items are commonly found in fatbergs, as well as escaping into the nation’s waterways and entering rivers, seas and oceans, harming marine life.

So-called ‘concretebergs’ also pose a danger to the sewers and waterways. They occur when building materials, paint and concrete enter the drainage network and solidify, causing blockages that are almost impossible to remove. Only 15% of survey respondents had heard of the term concretebergs.

Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at Lanes Group, said: “This national survey has provided us with a fascinating insight into people’s habits and awareness when it comes to what they put down the drain and sewers and the impact their behaviour can have on the environment.

“We can see that, while awareness is rising and people understand the risks posed by fatbergs and plastic pollution, there is still some way to go in terms of educating the public on how they are unintentionally adding to the problem."

Lanes is launching a nationwide awareness month – Unblocktober – inviting people to commit to a series of simple pledges for the month of October to help protect our sewers and seas from fatbergs and plastic.

Michelle said: “I am excited to launch Unblocktober and challenge the public to change their own behaviour. If we all make tiny changes at home this can have a huge impact on the environment as a whole, we just need to harness the conversation around plastic pollution and environmental issues and give people the knowledge they need to make a change for good.

“Our survey results show that the British public want to do their bit, so now I urge local and national government to make it easy for people to help the environment and ensure the infrastructure is there to make this as convenient as possible.”

67% of survey respondents said that laziness was the main barrier to changing behaviour when it comes to incorrect disposal of FOG, while 58% said a lack of education was to blame and 51% said convenience is also a factor.

66% of people thought that educating primary school children would be the most effective way to change behaviour. Fatberg Fighters is an initiative created by Lanes in 2017 that offers free lesson plans and educational resources for teachers.

The full survey data is available to view at: https://www.lanesfordrains.co.uk/global/news/lanes-survey-reveals-uks-habits-attitudes-drainage-use-complete-data/.

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Drainage team praised for Orkney success 29/04/2019

Drainage engineers from Lanes Group plc have spent a week delivering specialist pipe surveying and cleaning services to customers in Orkney.

Customers praised the Lanes team for the support provided to clear a heavily-contaminated pipe, water jet drains around a major reservoir and survey sewers at a new housing estate.

Five operatives from the Lanes Aberdeen depot travelled by ferry to Orkney Mainland with a jet vac tanker, a CCTV drainage survey unit and a tracked off-road water jetting unit.

Lanes area development manager Mark Morrice said: “We delivered services for three customers over the week. Combining work in one intensive package significantly reduces costs for our Scottish islands customers.”

The team used high-pressure water jetting to clear a 100-metre-long 150mm-diameter pipe that was 30 per cent filled with concrete.

The team also supported a building contractor in carrying out a pre-adoption CCTV drainage survey on the drainage system serving a new housing estate on the Mainland in a project that lasted two days.

The operatives then moved on to a large reservoir to water jet clean surface water drains serving the site. Pipes with a combined length of over 500 metres were cleaned over two days.

Where parts of the site could not be reached by the jet vac tanker, the tracked remote-access water jetting reel was deployed. All drain lines were CCTV surveyed to show they were clear of debris.

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Nowhere off limits for the off-road jet vac tanker 17/04/2019

A go-anywhere jet vac tanker designed for use by the military and United Nations relief teams is proving its worth helping keep sewers running smoothly across central and southern England.

The JHL recycling jet vac tanker is being used by Lanes Group to access remote sewers and culverts across the most difficult terrain on behalf of Thames Water.

Lanes, Thames Water’s wastewater network services maintenance partner, is using the specialist vehicle for more productive planned cleaning of main sewers and to respond rapidly to off-road blockages.

Michael Hall, head of operations for Lanes Utilities, said: “Our 8×8 jet vac tanker is the only vehicle of its kind operating in the UK, and it’s all-terrain capability is proving its worth time and again.

“We can quickly reach wastewater assets that are far from a road or firm ground. The vehicle is also ready to be deployed if there is a flood to maintain critical assets such as pumping stations.”

The vehicle has enhanced ground clearance plus eight-wheel drive and steering. It was originally designed to support wastewater management in remote military bases and humanitarian aid camps.

Two Lanes drainage engineers have now undergone specialist off-road training in the vehicle to support their work in some of the most remote and hard-to-reach locations across the Thames Water region.

The training has taught them how to make the best use of the jet vac tanker’s ability to cope with boggy and unstable ground and risk assess conditions to ensure all off-road hazards are fully considered.

In Long Hanborough, in Oxfordshire, the vehicle has been used to travel 1,000 metres across farm and construction land that had been churned up by excavators to carry out a large sewer clean.

Without the JHL 8×8, the project could only have been completed with a recycler jet vac tanker, two tracked portable jetting reels and the deployment of a confined space entry team.

Jet vac operative Chris Wood, who is the vehicle’s main driver, said: “This is an extraordinary piece it kit. It makes our off-road work much more productive and allows us to react more quickly to potential pollution incidents.

“Importantly, because I can drive right up to a manhole, wherever it is, and vacuum blockage material from the sewer, we don’t have to send in a confined space team which is a major safety boost.

“There hasn’t been a project yet where we haven’t felt confident that we can reach an off-road sewer. Even when we’ve been axle-deep in mud, it has kept on going.”

Off-road training specialist Mark Stopps, of Explore the Country, near Milton Keynes, who led the training, said: “The 8×8 jet vac is a very impressive piece of machinery.

“It has better off-road capabilities than many similar-sized military vehicles. Hats off, also, to Lanes for giving its drivers off-road training, it’s not something that many users of all-terrain vehicles think of doing.”

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Fatberg Q&A with the firm behind the famous Whitechapel fatberg 01/04/2019

With the famous Sidmouth fatberg finally defeated last week, Cleaning Matters talks to Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at Lanes Group, about all things fatberg-related

Cleaning Matters (CM): Why are we so fascinated with fatbergs?

Michelle Ringland (MR): “I personally think the fascination with fatbergs comes from a childlike fascination with poo and all things poo-related; even as adults we still like to discuss poo. If we had 'smellovision' then the fascination would be even greater. You only had to watch the reactions on Gogglebox when they reviewed the Fatberg Autopsy show to see this fascination. It’s the same reaction I get every day when I discuss my job with people; they are fascinated and always ask about the smell. The answer is that fatbergs actually smell worse than poo in the sewers and drains.”

CM: Do you think it’s odd that a fatberg could form in a tiny seaside town like Sidmouth?

MR: “It is not at all odd that a fatberg has formed in the small seaside town of Sidmouth, close to the sea. Here at Lanes we are dealing with these issues day in and day out. It's the huge fatbergs in main sewers that makes the headlines, which is good for raising awareness. But fatbergs occur in towns and cities across the UK daily, in peoples’ manhole chambers, in gardens and in lateral connections that drop into the main sewers, such as the one in Sidmouth. The smaller drains feed the huge sewers. The industry has a message about only flushing pee, poo and paper, but perhaps it’s time we also started telling people not to feed the fatbergs.”

CM: Tell us about the fatberg on display at the Museum of London

MR: “The visitor numbers at the Museum of London soared when the Whitechapel fatberg was put in place. They were delighted with the response. It was a fabulous display and very well received, and it continues today with the Fatcam which is watching the fatberg decay.  https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/fatcam-watch-fatberg-live

If fatbergs weren't so unpleasant and dangerous, because of all the bacteria and bugs that are in them, they should be displayed across the country so that everyone can see what is hidden beneath the streets. We have to raise awareness to stop this 'out of sight out of mind' mentality. Lanes runs a Fatberg Fighters awareness programme with school children, where we teach them about how fatbergs are formed and how to avoid them. Hopefully our work will mean that the next generation will be more educated and responsible when it comes to what can and cannot be put down the drain.”

CM: What do fatbergs tell us about modern society?

MR: “Modern day society in developed countries is used to convenience, and this includes the luxury of having a fully functioning sewer and drainage network that is reliable. Some people holidaying in Greece don’t even put their toilet paper down the drains because they realise that the sewer system there cannot cope with it in the same way that ours does.

Couple that with packaging and marketing from the manufacturers of the many, many disposable products - claiming and labelling that their products are 'flushable' - and you end up with a bad mix of lack of knowledge and miseducation.

Take for example ‘flushable’ cat litter - why on earth would anyone want to dispose of cat litter down their toilet?  And why would anyone think that is acceptable?

Then of course we have the huge 'flushable wipes' debate. There are no flushable wipes on the market that would stand the 'flushability' tests that are required and acceptable by the utility sector. The tests that they conform to are their own industry tests. Does that stack up? It’s almost like self regulation. But the non-wovens sector is worth millions of pounds and there is obviously going to be push back from the industry when you try to discourage this behaviour, because their products are all about convenience.

All these items like disposable wipes should not go down the sewers because that is what most fatbergs consist of, alongside the FOG (fats oils and grease) that is poured down sinks and solidifies then mixes with all this debris.

When the government suggested it was going to ban wet wipes in 2018, the outrage on forums such as Mumsnet was unbelievable. But when are people going to take responsibility for their own actions? The people who have been affected by sewer floods that are caused by blockages created by wipes and FOG do tend to change their habits once they have seen sewage spilling into their homes and gardens. It’s a hard lesson to learn when affected by this distressful situation.”

Lanes conducted a survey into public opinion around fatbergs and the full data can be viewed via this link: bit.ly/fatbergdata

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Hillside culverts cleared to reduce flood threat 26/02/2019

The threat of flooding faced by a community in a Welsh mountain valley is being greatly reduced by a culvert clearance programme carried out by Lanes Group plc.

The drainage specialist has been commissioned by the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf to carry out the surface water drain and culvert cleaning work in and around Cwmbach, near Aberdare.

Debris washed down the mountainside and into the culverts during periods of heavy rain and snow melt had greatly reduced the capacity of the culverts, increasing the risk of flash flooding.

Drainage engineers from the Lanes Cardiff depot have worked closely with the county borough’s own asset maintenance teams to remove and dispose of many tonnes of silt, stones and large boulders.

Specialist drainage vehicles have been playing a key role in ensuring the culvert cleaning work can be carried out as quickly, safely and sustainably as possible.

Kyle Burgess, area development manager at Lanes Cardiff, said: “Our ability to deploy the right combinations of advanced water jetting and vacuumation machines has supported the effectiveness of this culvert cleaning programme.

“However, due to the nature and location of the culverts, we have also had to carry out multiple confined space entries, using strict safety procedures, to remove debris, including boulders by hand."

The three-month programme, coordinated by the county borough, has resulted in the systematic cleaning of drains and culverts ranging from 100mm to 1200mm in diameter.

Lanes has deployed a recycler jet vac tanker as well as a standard jet vac machine to carry out the water jetting and vacuumation work.

A recycler unit can filter and reuse its water, allowing it to stay on station for longer without refilling its tank, increasing productivity by up to 68 per cent.

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Fine to Flush standard “a positive step” 19/02/2019

Drainage and utility specialist Lanes Group has welcomed a new official standard for wet wipes that can be flushed down toilets safely – but is keen to see a complete ban on all non-degradable wet wipes.

Industry body Water UK has teamed up with Anglian Water and other water companies to create the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard to tackle the tens of thousands of blockages caused by wet wipes every year.

Wipe manufacturers can now feature an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if their products pass strict scientific tests.

The symbol is designed to let consumers know that the products do not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of blocking pipes and contributing to fatbergs.

Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at Lanes Group, said: “Companies introducing fine-to-flush labels is a significant step in the right direction.

“Wipes are responsible for 93% of blockages and contribute significantly to the increasing numbers of fatbergs forming across the UK.

“It’s crucial for manufacturers to take responsibility for the blockages caused by non-flushable and supposedly ‘flushable’ wipes and clear up any confusion the consumer has about flushing or binning the wipe.”

She said blockages and fatbergs, which cause sewage floods and cost £millions every year to clear, are not the only consequence of flushing wipes. They also wash up on beaches and are contributing plastics in waterways and oceans, creating a threat to marine life.

Michelle Ringland added: “While ‘Fine to Flush’ is a good start, it is not the end of this issue. We hope to see, and will contribute to, continued work that must end with a total ban on all non-degradable wet wipes.”

Lanes is at the forefront of the battle to keep the nation’s drains and sewers flowing freely. As the wastewater network services partner for Thames Water, it cleared the 250-metre-long Whitechapel fatberg which went on to spawn a museum exhibition and is being turned into a musical.

Lanes delivers wastewater services across the UK for Anglian Water, Scottish Water, Northumbrian Water and Scottish Water.

It also has its own schools education campaign called Fatberg Fighters, providing teachers with a professionally-designed lesson about the environmental and social consequences of disposing of wipes and fats down drains, plus the science of fatbergs.

The wipe manufacturing industry has responded to criticism by introducing its own labelling guidelines. This has contributed to an increase in products being labelled ‘Do Not Flush’.

However, Water UK points out that there are many wipes on the market labelled ‘flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not meet the standard needed to receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol.

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