Almost 7,000 blocked sewers have been reported by vigilant Thames Water customers in the four months since the company launched a new online tool.
Report a Blockage Online (RABO) allows residents to inform the water company of suspected blockages using a simple online form.
Engineers will then be dispatched to investigate the issue and, when needed, clear any obstructions like fatbergs to help prevent pollution incidents.
It was devised by Thames Water’s operational service centre and digital and website teams, with the company focused on bringing its vast sewer network into the virtual era using interactive tools to increase live underground monitoring.
Since RABO launched in October, more than 6,800 blockages have been reported and raised, with a record 2,100 in February alone.
Working alongside existing methods of reporting blockages, such as by phone or on social media, the tool has helped Thames Water uncover and repair issues across London and the Thames Valley as part of the ongoing battle against sewer blockages, which includes a record 900km sewer cleaning programme in the last year.
Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said: “I’m delighted with how effective our new online tool has been in identifying sewer blockages and want to thank everyone who has reported a suspected blockage to us.
“Thanks to the hard work and vision of our digital and operational teams, we have another important weapon in our armoury as we battle against sewer blockages and fatbergs and I hope it can become even more successful in preventing pollution incidents in the future.
“As well as helping us find blockages, I’d urge customers to help us avoid them by being careful what they put down their drains. As always, we’d urge everyone to only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – to help avoid problems in the future.”
Many sewer blockages are caused by “unflushable” items like wet wipes, nappies and sanitary products, which don’t break down in pipes like toilet paper and can combine with fats, oils and grease to create fatbergs: huge, solid masses which are difficult to clear and can cause raw sewage to back up and flood homes, businesses and the environment.
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.
The company also runs the annual ‘Bin it – don’t block it’ campaign, warning of the dangers of putting unflushables and fats, oils and grease down the drain.