Thames Water is reminding people not to put unflushable items down their toilets, after a surge in blockages amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Engineers at Beddington sewage works have had to remove three major blockages from the inlet filter screens in just three weeks – when normally it would take two to three month for just one blockage to develop.

Many shoppers have been bulk-buying toilet roll as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving others turning to alternatives. But Thames Water is reminding people not to flush wet wipes, kitchen roll, tissues or newspaper. Instead, they should be thrown in the bin. 

As well as clogging up sewage plant machinery, unflushable items, which also include wet wipes, kitchen roll, tissues, newspapers, nappies and sanitary products, don’t break down in pipes like toilet paper and can combine with fats, oils and grease to create fatbergs.

Adrian Wallis, Beddington sewage works manager, said: “Normally we only need to jet wash the inlet filter screens every two to three months. Last month alone we had to do it three times.

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“We appreciate and understand everyone is using wipes more and washing their hands a lot more as recommended. But, please remember, the only things that should be flushed are the 3Ps: poo, pee and toilet paper.

“Wipes and things like kitchen roll if used instead of toilet paper can’t go down the loo. As nasty as it sounds, if people do use them as a last resort they need to put them in a bin and dispose of them safely.”

People working in the water and sewerage industry have been identified by the government as key workers.

This means Thames Water staff, who cannot fulfil their roles from home, are required to be out working in roads, at water and sewage treatment sites and in the company’s control centre offices, in line with official health advice.

Beddington sewage works treats the wastewater of 405,000 people in Croydon, Thornton Heath and Carshalton. The site produces around 80 per cent of its electricity by converting biogas from sludge.

On average, Thames Water spends £18 million every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers, unclogging five house blockages and removing 30 tonnes of material from just one of its sewage treatment works every day.

Thames Water has set up a dedicated coronavirus webpage - - where customers can go to find out how to reschedule house visits if they feel unwell, as well as the full range of support options for those who need help paying their water bill.