Reasons for blocked and clogged drains in Wirral and the Northwest

FatbergThe average North West household pours 14Ibs of fat, oils and grease (FOG) down the drain in a year. Across the region, this equates to 2.9 million stone – the weight of over 243,000 UK adults (more than the population of Oldham!).

Where does all this fat come from? The answer could be a fondness for frying. According to a study into the region’s “fat habits”, which examined how we eat, cook and dispose of the calorific culprit, one in five North West residents fry food at least three days a week.

The study was conducted by water company United Utilities to discover more about the fat which all too often ends up down our drains. 
Adrian Booth, from United Utilities, who has witnessed first-hand the misery and damage caused by fat being put down the drains said: “We are always being called out to unblock pipes and sewers clogged with solidified fats. Fixing problems is both costly and disruptive, and on those occasions when it’s not our responsibility to fix, it can mean the homeowner having to call out a plumber or a drainage contractor which unfortunately may result in an unwanted hefty bill. 
“The aim of this study was to understand more about how people use and dispose of fats in order to better tackle the issue. As we suspected, many people dispose of fat and food waste by pouring it down the sink or loo, rather than putting it in the bin, even though a large number know that doing so will cause blockages and damage to pipes. But the real surprise was how that fat is generated in the first place.” 
In addition to being ‘frequent fryers’ the study found that:

• One in six use more oil/butter than they know they should 
• Even when following recipes, one in ten will ignore instructions and boost butter or oil levels in their food 
• Half never trim the fat off meat like bacon or pork chops 
• One in ten use at least three tablespoons of oil to fry food 
• One in thirteen never grill meat or fish – they always fry it 
• One in thirty has never cooked a vegetable other than a potato

The study also found that people are keen for change. This year, over 80% of people want to ditch their bad cooking habits and lose weight by eating more healthily.

On the back of the findings, United Utilities has therefore teamed up with award-winning chef Mary-Ellen McTague to launch a “Fight the Fat” campaign that aims to help both people and pipes ditch the grease in 2015.

Mary-Ellen said: “It’s of great concern to hear the amount of fat and grease the North West is pouring down the sink, particularly when it causes such widespread blockage and pollution issues. But I’m also interested in why we are generating such huge quantities of fat in the first place?

“Making a few simple changes to how we prepare our food could help reduce the amount of fat going down our drains and into our bodies, so here are a few tips.”

1) There’s no need to add fat when cooking all but the leanest of meats- for example, pork chops, leg, shoulder and belly and most cuts of lamb already have enough fat on them and certainly don’t need any more adding. 
2) Fatty meats, such as the above mentioned, plus bacon, whole roast chickens etc. will release a lot of fat when they are cooked. This can be drained off into a pot and reused when making casseroles, soups and gravies so that nothing is getting wasted, and nothing is going down the drain where it can potentially cause problems. 
3) Using low cholesterol oils are better for our bodies, but also less likely to clog drains if they do happen to find their way into the basin than animal fats. Try brushing lean meats and fish very lightly with olive oil, then chargrilling instead of frying. The flavour is good, and a minimal amount of fat is required.

United Utilities will be sharing more advice and regular low-fat recipes from Mary-Ellen through its online Customer Café – – and via its social media channels.

Adrian added: “We all know that eating fatty foods is bad for our arteries, but it is also bad for the North West’s underground arteries – our pipes and sewer system. They really do need a fat free diet!

“By offering people useful advice from a top chef on cooking with less fat, and linking this in with our own work on how to dispose of fats and food scraps properly, we hope we can help both people and pipes shed pounds this year.”

But what are the dishes we are most likely to cook that create troublesome fatty leftovers? There are some interesting variations across the region:



Most popular in…

% who cook this at least once a week

% who pour/flush leftover fats down the plughole


Pasta bake 




Roast dinner and trimmings

Merseyside & The Wirral







Red meat 

Greater Manchester



Oven cooked ready meals 





luxurious bathrooms around the planet.

You would never book a hotel just because of its luxurious guest bathrooms… Or would you? Whether you’re looking to unwind in an over-sized tub filled with bubbles or are hoping to ogle a sweeping panorama from the shower, these bathrooms are so luxe and so filled with enviable amenities (not to mention, tidied up by housekeeping), they might be worth making the trip for.Best for Bathing Down Under: Osprey Pavilion at Southern Ocean Lodge

Worthy cause we should all think about!


World Toilet Day is a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet – despite the human right to water and sanitation. 

It is a day to do something about it. 

Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have improved sanitation. 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy. 

We cannot accept this situation. Sanitation is a global development priority. This is why the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 designated 19 November as World Toilet Day. This day had previously been marked by international and civil society organizations all over the world but was not formally recognized as an official UN day until 2013. World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders. 

Girl stuck in Dover storm drain retrieving phone

Girl stuck in Dover storm drain retrieving phone

  • 3 April 2014

  • From the section Kent
Media captionNeighbours described their surprise at seeing Ella stuck in the drain in the road

A teenage girl got stuck in a storm drain when she tried to retrieve her phone which had fallen into it.

Ella Birchenough became stuck up to her waist after lifting up the cover and squeezing down the hole in Eaves Road, Dover, on Wednesday evening.

The 16-year-old had to be released by fire crews but was uninjured.

Witness Tim Richards, 22, described it as “a comedy gold moment” and said the teenager had found it funny. 

Attempts to free her failed so firefighters were called to pull her from the drain.

‘Completely stuck’

Mr Richards said: “She was more concerned about getting her phone back rather than getting herself out of the drain.”

He added that at one point she managed to inch herself out, but promptly went back in before becoming “completely stuck”.

“My mum knows her mum and she went to call on her. 

“We tried to pull her out a couple of times but it wasn’t happening,” he said. 

“She was quite calm and relaxed and saw the funny side of it… how she thought she was going to get her phone, I have no idea.”

Girl stuck down a drain in Dover
The teenage girl got stuck down the storm drain up to her waist while trying to retrieve her phone

Ella’s mother, Joanne Birchenough, 36, told Kent Online her daughter had been trying to retrieve her two-week-old iPhone by using her feet, but she got stuck.

She joked she would be bringing out pictures of Ella in the drain on her 18th birthday and wedding day.

The taxi firm worker said: “I think it’s the funniest thing. At first I panicked, thinking ‘Oh my God, she’s going to sink’.

“But when I saw her it made me laugh. She is upset about her phone, but at the end of the day at least she’s all right.”

Ella told local reporters she went to put her phone in her pocket but it fell in the drain.

She said after she was rescued she ran home and jumped in the bath.

Pictures of the teenager have been shown by media organisations around the world, including in Canada and Australia.

Worlds most expensive drain 

Something smells bad in Bonaire.
More than 20 years after the need for a sewer system to protect Bonaire’s reef was confirmed, it is about to begin full operation. Its cost has been astronomical [from €20 up to] – €34.5 million – which means each [vacuum-] connection to the 607 households, 73 hotels and businesses costs more than €50,000 each [for 3,000 to 4,000 people (p.e.)]. And that cost is after the project was downsized because the contractor’s price was significantly more than the available funds. The coastal strip where the buildings would be connected, was reduced from 500 meters to 200 meters from the sea, the size of the [vacuum] sewer pipes were specified a smaller diameter and a system malfunction remedy was deleted.

The Institute for Water Education in Delft [UNESCO-IHE] concluded that the cost-per-connection is among the highest in the world. There is no doubt that a system to remove wastewater from the coastline is mandatory. Bonaire is surrounded by a coral reef which attracts tourists from around the planet. The reef is harmed when the nutrients from sewage promote the growth of algae which smother the sensitive coral polyps. The newly-installed sewage treatment system will pipe the wastewater from facilities within 200m of the most populated coastal zones to treatment facilities near the center of the island. The treated water will be sold at low prices for agricultural use [flowering hotels]. 

Concerns about the project were raised as early as [2003] 2004. Motivated by a recent freezing of future funds by the European Commission, a fraud investigation by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, is escalating.

Development funds from the European Commission and The Netherlands have been used to pay for the work. The payments were overseen by the Development Foundation of the Netherlands Antilles (SONA). The allegations of fraud were raised by Kay HETZER, a fired team leader of the company that oversaw the sewer project who testified that, “I had to leave in 2011 because I did not cooperate in the fraud. I always had to pay more than the contractor was permitted under the construction agreement. That amounted to €250,000.” 

Expensive toilet paper

Most people are quite happy with a £1.80p pack of Andrex.

But if you’re wanting to give your derriere the treatment that’s fit for an Emperor, you might wish to try this overtly lavish Japanese toilet paper.

The brand, known as Hanebisho, comes at a price, of course.

A three-pack will cost you 5,000Yen (around £32), meaning a single roll works out at about £11 – many times more expensive than your average supermarket brand. 

Lavish: Japan's Hanebisho brand of toilet paper is considered the world's most expensive at around £11 a roll
Lavish: Japan’s Hanebisho brand of toilet paper is considered the world’s most expensive at around £11 a roll