ROAST turkey, roast potatoes, roast vegetables - Christmas and New Year is a time when tables are bursting with the traditional dinners we love.

But we all know that in order to enjoy them we have to experience a downside - washing-up. With the fat and oil associated with festive meals, this is never a pleasant task. While it may be tempting to scrape and wash this greasy build up down the sink, this can cause problems that are not easy to eradicate without specialist help.

If washed down the sink oil and greasy sauces can solidify in pipes like a block of lard, creating a blockage that prevents waste water draining away, meaning it could find its way back up through the plug hole.

In its role to keep pipes and sewers across the region free from blockages, Yorkshire Water (YW) works hard to get across the message to households to dispose of such substances sensibly, with on-going campaigns to educate customers as to what can cause problems.

Explains Lindsay Page, the Bradford-based company’s service delivery and operations manager: “Fats and oils do not break down and can cause clogging and blockages. This is a particular issue over Christmas as a lot of fats and oils can end up down the sink.

“There’s a simple rule for things you should flush down the toilet; stick to the three Ps - pee, poo and paper. The best way to dispose of fat is to let it cool, then store it in a glass jar like an old jam jar before throwing it away. Or use one of our gunk pots - a reusable silicone container, available free from our website. You can scrape the fat into the pot before disposing in the bin.”

Even small amounts of fat poured down a sink can contribute to blocked drains. The firm is called out to more than 30,000 sewer blockages every year, costing £2.4 million with 40 per cent of incidents caused by another unwanted item - wet wipes.

“There is plastic within wet wipes and so-called flushable wet wipes,” says Lindsay. “Plastics do not break down in the sewers which mean they can clog up after a period of time. This could cause a blockage and so what is flushed down the toilet could come back up.”

Blockages are removed from the sewer network using high pressure jetting equipment. However in more difficult situations with more stubborn blockages, specialised jetting/vacuumation units are called out.

Devices installed in the sewer network can help identify blockages and over the next few years YW will be increasing the number of these.

The company’s ‘Flushable Wipes Block Pipes’ message is just one of a number used in campaigns to prevent people throwing wipes down the toilet. In 2018, throughout Yorkshire, there has been an average monthly increase of 45 per cent in blockages caused by wipes.

“We’ve been targeting the known problem hotspots, where blockages occur more often - up to eight times more in some areas - with a dedicated targeted behaviour change campaign,” adds the spokesman.

“We’re delighted that a combined effort between our operational team and communications team in these hotspot areas means that we have managed to buck the trend by changing behaviours and reducing the average Yorkshire-wide increase of 45 per cent to just 17 per cent in known problem areas.”

Overall, over the past three years, call outs to clear blockages have fallen from 33003 in 2015/16 to 32849 the following year and 30611 in the 2017/18 period. This could be due to raised awareness, the spokesman adds. “Reducing the number of blockages in our sewers is a massive job and, as well as asking our customers to do their bit by thinking carefully about what they're putting down their sinks and toilets, we remain committed to doing everything we can to reduce the number of sewer flooding incidents in the region.”

Earlier this year YW called on wipe companies to do more to encourage customers to throw wipes in the bin and not the toilet. They asked wet wipe manufacturers to increase the prominence of the ‘no flushing’ symbol on their packaging and let their customers know that wipes can cause blockages.

Other items too, can contribute to blocked sewers. Over the years the company has found a variety of items in its network including rubble and bricks, concrete, plastic bags, traffic cones and footballs.

Over the next five years YW investing £252 million to improve the quality of its sewer network that covers 20,000 miles of pipeline.