SA Water's Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant

New figures, released by SA Water, indicate a significant decrease in 2022 of sewer blockages caused by unflushable objects in South Australia. 

A group of unflushable objects, led by wet wipes, cooking fats and oils, and even weird and problematic items such as superhero costumes, were responsible for 1,746 blockages over a six-month period in 2021 – during the same period from October 2022, there were only 1,268 blockages, marking a 40 per cent decrease.

The sharp decline has resulted in a more than $230,000 reduction in SA Water’s expenses related to clearing and disposing of blockages between the periods, along with less impact to the environment from overflows.

SA Water’s Senior Manager of Infrastructure Planning and Strategy, Daniel Hoefel, said the utility is thrilled with how the community has embraced changes to their behaviour at the sink and toilet.

“South Australians should be commended for the role they’re playing to help keep our sewers healthy, and I’d like to thank people for their ongoing support in flushing out the unflushables,” Mr Hoefel said.

“It’s clear people are making a concerted effort to break their old habits and consider what they’re putting down the sink, or flushing down the loo, and it’s led to a significant drop in blockages caused by the typical suspects, including cooking fats and oils, tissues and wet wipes.

“During the months leading up to October 2022, we invested in community education to help share fun and engaging content with our customers to spark conversations about their habits.

“We needed to break down a few barriers to this behaviour change, such as ingrained habits and the ‘flush and forget’ mindset, and directly call out the real impact on the environment, people’s homes and our pipes.”

Mr Hoefel said that SA Water is now seeing the cumulative effect of this message trickling through the community, with the trend continuing to move in the right direction.

“Our blockage figures for the past three months were some of the lowest we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, which gave rise to a sharper increase in the occurrence of unflushables and reinforced bad habits,” Mr Hoefel said.

“Importantly, the numbers still aren’t zero, so we know there’s more conversations to be had and work to do.

“This positive shift is incredibly encouraging, and coupled with our operational initiatives such as a proactive sewer cleaning program, we’re hopeful we will continue to see a constant decline over the long term.

“Our sewers exist to protect the environment and public health, and if we look after them, they’ll look after us.”

Feature image: Collected unflushables. Provided by SA Water.

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