Grime fighting with Severn Trent

A good sewage system is the mark of a civilised society and something which we all probably take for granted - until it goes wrong.

By Ben McVay
Sunday, 18th May 2014, 1:24 pm
Feature on Severn Trent Water, Mansfield.
Feature on Severn Trent Water, Mansfield.

The Chad went out with a team of workers based at Severn Trent Water on Mansfield’s Great Central Road, whose job it is to find the source of problems and fix them.

Sewer operatives at the office deal with 1.6m customers and more than 8,670km of sewers in the Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire area.

And a good deal of their work involves finding blockages and clearing them, and it will probably be no surprise for most to learn that these are often caused by householders and businesses.

Fats, oils and greases are commonly poured down sinks to cause a build up in the 150-225ml pipes but other items such as baby wipes can haunt our busy waterways for quite some time.

Steve Briggs, service delivery manager for Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire, said the organisation hoped to stop people putting unsuitable items in sewers by educating them.

“It is about getting out and explaining to people what causes the problems so they can avoid causing them,” said Steve.

“Almost 65 per cent of blockages are caused by the likes of nappies so if we could prevent misuse that would really reduce the amount of blockages and ensure customers’ money was better spent.

At present Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire area spends £5m annually dealing with blockages, floodings and pollutions.

And blockages are bread and butter for Graham Hempsall, network county manager for Severn Trent contractors Kier, whose most unusual find was a 15ft snake, fortunately dead.

Sadly, no snakes emerged at a Mansfield property we visited with Graham and sewer operatives Leon Blackshields and Gavin Hancock, but it was interesting to watch the team get to the bottom of a blockage.

It involved feeding a camera down the sewer from street level, then using a high pressure jet machine to remove a piece of masonry from the pipe.

Operatives like Leon and Gavin are highly trained in working in confined spaces, highways safety and first aid and take a real pleasure in solving problems for customers.

Said Gavin: “It is a good job. Every day is different - we do all sorts from repairing to diagnosis. It is a really good feeling when you fix a problem.”

Leon added: “You are out in rain and snow, but you get used to it and it is kind of like running your own business.”

To find out more about Severn Trent Water’s work and how to avoid blocking sewers, visit