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Thames Water engineers cleared more than 22km of sewers in West Berkshire

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Thames Water engineers have cleared more than 22km of sewers in West Berkshire over the past year, helping protect customers and the environment from flooding.

The underground pipes, stretching the equivalent of four loops around Donnington Castle and Snelsmore Common, have been swept since April last year using a range of techniques, from hi-tech camera technology as part of the company’s digital revolution, to hand tools on the most stubborn blockages.

The work was part of a record cleaning programme across the Thames Valley and London, which saw 1,500km of sewers inspected and cleared to ensure they can safely take away the wastewater of millions of customers without being blocked by obstacles like fatbergs.

Newbury Sewage (47163439)
Newbury Sewage (47163439)

Working with partners including Lanes Group, McAllister Group and OnSite, and despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Thames Water’s haul included a record-breaking 190km in February alone.

The water company has now set an ambitious target of 2,300km next year, the equivalent of a sewer stretching from London to Athens, with more than 30km of sewers in West Berkshire due to be cleared by the end of this year.

Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, said: “Despite not being the most glamorous job, battling fatbergs and other blockages in our sewers is absolutely vital in ensuring we’re able to safely take away the waste of our millions of customers.

“Once again we’ve carried out a record amount of cleaning this year but we aren’t stopping there and have ambitious plans to go even further to keep our sewers flowing as smoothly as possible to help protect our customers and the environment.

“Sewers can be unpleasant places and some of the things we find in our pipes highlight just how important it is to ensure nothing gets in there that shouldn’t. We urge all our customers to only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and toilet paper – as well as binning fats and oils rather than pouring them down the sink.”

The vital work included using high powered water jets to blast away blockages and powerful vacuums to suck them out.

Engineers even had to use hand tools to break down some of the more steadfast blockages and carried out extensive surveying of the sewers, including using remote cameras attached to small floating barges, to help identify any blockages or defects.

Areas where sewers were cleaned have seen internal flooding and pollutions halve in the last year, while emergency blockage clearances went down by almost one-third.

However, the number of blockages in public sewers in West Berkshire caused by fats and oils rocketed up by almost 10 per cent to 160, which may be due to more residents cooking at home during the pandemic.

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