Galahs, fatbergs and Cousin It – all found in Melbourne sewers

Yarra Valley Water has revealed unusual items recovered from Melbourne sewers, as part of a social media campaign to change people’s habits.  The water utility spends around $1 million a year to remove objects, fats and wet wipes from sewers after they have caused blockages.

Yarra Valley Water has revealed unusual items recovered from Melbourne sewers. This was part of a social media campaign to change people’s habits. The water utility spends around $1 million a year to remove objects, fatbergs and wet wipes from sewers after they have caused blockages.

A galah, money and blankets were among bizarre items found in Melbourne’s sewers.

Yarra Valley Water said it dealt with more than 1,300 blockages in the sewer network last year. Most were caused by people putting things such as cooking oil, hygiene products and wet wipes down sinks and toilets.

Bridie Fennessy, General Manager of Distribution Services, said they’ve discovered everything from snakes, cotton buds and even kids’ toys in the wastewater network.

“Everything that goes down the kitchen, showers, laundry and bathroom sink or that is flushed down the toilet ends up in the sewerage system,” Ms Fennessy said.

“Many things flushed down the toilets are simply not suitable for flushing, and the safest option is to put it in the bin,” she said.

Fatbergs are created when wet wipes congeal with fats and oils poured down the drain, causing massive blockages and damage to sewer pipes.

The water utility says it removes over 100 tonnes of wet wipes each year, and the fatbergs cost anything up to $1,000 a time to clear.

“It can take several hours, even days, to dislodge and remove a blockage,” she said. “We had a huge wet wipe blockage last year, which cost about $4,420 to remove.”

“Another common item that we find is dental floss. It’s surprising to think something so small can cause so much damage, but it clogs up air valves, and we can get leaks and spills,” she said.

What not to flush

As part of the campaign, Yarra Valley Water is asking people to think twice about flushing these everyday items down the toilet:

  • Non-flushable wet wipes
  • Cotton buds
  • Dental floss
  • Fats
  • Sanitary products/condoms
  • Paint
  • Rubbish
  • Rags
  • Money
  • Toys

“Only flush the 3Ps (pee, poo and toilet paper) and wet wipes that show the flushable symbol. Make sure you allow cooking fats and oils to cool before putting them in the bin rather than pouring them down the sink,” Ms Fennessy said.

While some objects have been accidentally or unintentionally flushed down the network, how other items enter the system remains unclear.

“Over the years, we’ve found a range of different objects and even wildlife,” she said. “Perhaps one of the most unusual things we’ve found in our sewer network so far has been a galah. It was found 10 metres underground, stuck down a sewer pipe.”

Ms Fennessy added that staff had been able to help the Galah get back to ground level safely.

Interestingly, it appears that Melbourne’s sewer system might even harbour some famous Pizza-eating residents – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“We’ve also recused a few turtles that had found their way into a nearby sewer system. As you can imagine, that has led to a few jokes around the office!”

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