I recently spent an afternoon understanding how our city's sewage is managed. Not everyone's cup of tea, but if I'm going to do this job properly I need to see the underbelly of what keeps us safe and healthy too.
The new treatment plant at Peacehaven looks like a Bond villain's lair with its camouflage and huge high-tech engineering plant hidden underground. At the site they treat the entire city's sewerage using a colossal network of pipes and pumping stations that combine Victorian infrastructure with state-of-the-art technology.
But one thing shocked me and it's something every one of us should know about and that's the dangers of the humble wet-wipe! I'm so tempted to make jokes, but now I've seen what these things do to out drainage and sewerage systems I feel the need to tell you about it and beg you to never, ever, flush one down the loo again.
Forgive the detail but I know this stuff now and have to share it. Loo paper disintegrates instantly upon flushing. Wet wipes don't. In fact, as they travel down the pipe from your home, into the street and further into the system they collect oils and become sticky so that other things merge together into a large sticky ball. This is responsible for up to 80% of all blocked drainage systems in our country. Worse still, when they arrive in the Peacehaven treatment plant, none of the systems yet invented will make them break down,so they have to be literally fished-out of the system separately. Once scooped out they go through a special pipe and pushed into a waiting skip. As your MP I took the ultimate sacrifice and stood by the pipe as it pumped this stuff out into the skip and believe me I will never, ever, for the rest of my life, flush a wet wipe down the loo again!!
This is actually really serious because it costs our city millions and millions of pounds simply dealing with the effects of wet-wipes flushed down the loo. It turns out that when a manufacturer says on the packet 'flushable', it simply means if you flush it down the loo it will disappear. It doesn't mean that it will either break down or be manageable.
In an age when we need our water management systems to be fully functional - just look at the flooding in Portslade last year after heavy rainfall which was caused by blocked drains - this kind of thing needs to be more widely known. That's why I wanted to post about it and it's why I'll be pressing government to act too.
In the meantime you can rest assured that we have the most high-tech waste system in the world. I know because I've seen it up close....so you don't have to! Have a great weekend, Peter