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We have met the Numptee and He is Us

Mr. Numptee looks at my flooded basement with sewer overflow blockage
Well, didn’t we have a rousing good time writing about Mr. Numptee, the bumbling red-lipped character in Yorkshire Water’s “Bin In, Don’t Flush It” campaign. Mr. Numptee finds himself in a constant state of sewer overflow because, again and again, he puts inappropriate items down the drain. His adventures are super funny to me because WE’RE not Numptees, we know better!

Or do we? Above, here’s Mr. Numptee in MY basement on Saturday night, after the panic of pumping out the sewer water that covered by basement floor. Below, the floor drain. If any water went down the waste pipes or a toilet was flushed, it all came bubbling up here. Gross! That white-ish stuff is TOILET PAPER!
flooded basement drain blockage overflowing with toilet paper

We cancelled our dinner plans and hit the Yellow Pages…at 7:30 pm Saturday. To our great relief, Pat from At Your Service told us he was on the way over. (Now there’s a well-named business!) After what seemed an eternity, but was actually just 30 minutes, the truck arrives.

The truck arrives from At Your Service Drain Specialists Kansas

They unload a monster of a machine. which looks small here, but is one giant hunk of metal. A hydraulic lift lowered in out onto the driveway.

Dan from At Your Service Drain Specialists in Kansas

Pat brought his helper Dan (above); it only takes one guy to do the actual unclogging, but it took both of them to get the “Spartan 1065” down the basement stairs. If this machine could talk…I’ll bet it would have some incredibly bad breath!

Spartan sewer drain cleaning machine used by At Your Service drain specialists Kansas

Through the clean-out opening of the nearby waste stack, Pat started feeding the Spartan’s snake through the line. The end of the snake has a disk-shaped tool that rotates and cuts its way through the sewer line. Below, Pat patiently feeds the line as all of us watch the drain anxiously. “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever taken out of a sewer line,” I ask. “Feminine Products,” he says. “Tampons. That happens a lot.” Pat says he nearly always clears the obstruction within 100 feet. (The Spartan’s limit is 125 feet.)

Pat from At Your Service drain specialists Kansas cleaning out the line

“That’s it.” We all look as the water drains from the floor, off to the wastewater stream where it belongs. Believe it or not, the photo below depicts a beautiful sight that brought me great happiness!

My clogged basement drain is finally cleared

So what caused it? Tree roots? No, Pat says our home is too new for that; roots are a common problem with homes that older than 40 years. In fact, our clog was caused by “feminine products.”

WHAT! Yes, the clog was caused by tampons. Now, there are 3 women in this household and I promise you, we knew that “sanitary products” or “feminine products” were verboten to flush, but for as much information as we’ve read on this topic, we thought they meant sanitary napkins, not little bitty tampons. Manufacturers help perpetuate the myth. From the Tampax website, you will read…

Tampax tampons can be flushed in toilets connected to city sewer systems. Frequent flushing of tampons is not recommended for septic systems.

Along with the misinformation, another problem is the silly modesty of terming these products  “feminine care.” If you mean tampons, say so!

So now we know. Here’s Pat and Dan, undoubtedly smiling because they’re done at my house and can go home and enjoy what’s left of their Saturday night. (I’m smiling too, at least until I have to face the prospect of cleaning up after a sewage overflow into my basement.)

Dan and Pat from At Your Service drain specialists Kansas

Shiny shamrocks on the truck of At Your Service drain specialists KansasI never expected see Mr. Numptee at my house, or a truck like this in my driveway. So let me state this directly: do not flush tampons. Also: according to Pat, who should know, do not flush baby wipes. Even the type that claim to be “flushable” are definitely not. As the truck leaves, I notice one awesome thing: the “lucky” shamrocks on the truck are made of reflective material, so I see them shining until the truck goes out of sight. And armed with a little more knowledge, I expect to be luckier in the future as far as sewer blockages go.

Are you a Numptee?

Numptee is the charmingly clueless character starring in Yorkshire (UK) Water’s new public education campaign, “Bin it, don’t flush it.”

You can’t help but smile at his silly antics though they spotlight a serious problem: sewer blockages and flooding, half of which are caused by Numptee and his buds putting inappropriate items down the drain. From campaign headquarters at yorkshirewater.com,

Numptee, did you just put that cooking fat down the sink?

Numptee, did you just put that cooking fat down the sink?

Yorkshire’s sewers are being abused and it’s causing all kinds of problems. You wouldn’t believe some of the things we find down the sewer – nappies, false teeth, fat, Christmas trees and even a Spacehopper! As funny as that sounds, all of these things can cause the sewer to stop working and this can lead to flooding.

Hmmm, are we talking about you? You might be a “Numptee” if:

  • you’re one of the 40% of people who dump fats, oils and grease down the sink
  • you’re among the 25% who think it’s OK to put items like cotton buds, nappies or sanitary products down the toilet.

Now, Numptee’s handlers at Yorkshire Water aren’t idiots so naturally the campaign is multi-media and backed by numerous social-media channels. You can follow the red-lipped phenom on Twitter (@MrNumptee) because…

By following Mr Numptee on twitter you’ll be able to see if we are dishing the dirt in your neighbourhood and take a sneaky peak at some of the unusual things that block up our sewers – yes that’s right we really do find strange things down there including one particular problem with knickers!!!

Where's Numptee Jr.'s dirty nappie headed?

If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss a single episode on Yorkshire Water’s YouTube channel. Contest-entering types can give their creative interpretations of exactly what kind of creature Numptee is (see the WIN tab) with top entries receiving cinema tickets, where…that’s right, Numptee trailers will be playing!

I found a lot of interesting information on the campaign’s web pages, including a neat tip to make “Bird Cakes” out of waste fats (the recipe is here.)

Numptee? Bin there, done that. You: don’t do it.

*Britspeak Glossary for Americans!

Bin: Trash can
Cotton Buds: Q-tips or cotton swabs
Knickers: underwear
Nappie: Diaper
Numptee: Dolt, or idiot
Spacehopper: Child’s sit-on bouncing toy