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Mysterious smoking pipe spooks water workers

NI Water staff were spooked while working under the streets of Belfast to clean the sewerage system after coming across a mysterious smoking pipe.

Staff were working at night in order to minimise any disruption to local businesses and cleared a vital wastewater system that serves the social scene of Belfast.

NI Water’s Head of Wastewater, Davy McCullough explains:

“My team recently undertook a deep clean under the streets of Belfast. Staff cleared fatbergs, wipes, sanitary items and much more from the sewerage system we all relay on to enjoy a night out in the town. These sewers are taking away wastewater from the bars and restaurants in that area and without them flowing freely, it wouldn’t be possible for any of us to enjoy a lovely meal our or catch up with friends.

“The mysterious smoking pipe although unnerving at first, is easily explained, this was caused by grease being poured down the sink. This is something NI Water are trying to discourage food outlets to avoid as this fat, oil and grease solidifies and creates those disgusting fatbergs that block the sewer.

“On top of this, my teams have also cleared thousands of wipes from the sewerage system all over Northern Ireland this year. The wet wipe saw a rise to fame at the start of the pandemic when toilet roll was in short supply and unfortunately, most of them made their way into our sewerage system.

“Unlike toilet roll, wet wipes do not break down easily and can stick to other inappropriate items that are flushed to create a blockage. This blockage often leads to out of sewer flooding.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon adds her support for the campaign:

“Fully functioning sewerage and wastewater systems are fundamental for the health and wellbeing of our citizens and NI Water staff work tirelessly to keep these systems running freely. However, they are often challenged by what we choose to flush down our toilets or pour down our sinks. This is a huge drain on time and resources which could be avoided with just a few small steps by us.

“We are in the midst of a climate crisis and we all have a part to play in protecting our essential services and protecting our natural environment. I appeal to everyone to stop and think about your actions and if it’s not one of the 3Ps or could block your sink and our systems then please choose to Bag It and Bin It.”

NI Water has recently launched an awareness campaign highlighting the ongoing effects of flushing the wrong items and how cooking fat, oil and grease can also clog the pipes if enough is dumped down the sink.

Davy concludes: “We have spent billions investing in water and wastewater infrastructure, but no amount of investment will completely stop blocked pipes or these items polluting our environment if people continue to flush wipes (including flushable), sanitary items and cotton buds down the toilet.”

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