Meet the real-life ‘Brothers Grim’ tackling sewer blockages - including wet wipes

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They’re the real-life Brothers Grim providing a fairytale ending to Severn Trent customers hit by sewer blockages – caused by the wrong things being put down the loo and sink. Leighton Bagley and Jaydan Porteous are called out to help unblock pipes and drains, clogged with everything from wet wipes to fats, oils and greases (FOG) and even underpants!The football-crazy siblings are one of the many teams who rapidly respond to reports of the gross blockages, which can lead to enormous fatbergs.

Wet wipes containing plastic are one of the biggest culprits and are now facing a potential ban under new Government legislation, announced this week.

Leighton and Jaydan are so well known in the Derbyshire area they work in, that they are often personally asked for by customers who say: “Please send the brothers!”

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We joined them on a typical work day as part of our Severn Trent Sewer Stories, a new campaign to showcase what our waste teams do and to highlight what should NOT be flushed.

Leighton and JaydanLeighton and Jaydan
Leighton and Jaydan

They had arrived in their specially equipped van to unblock drains clogged by unflushables, including wet wipes, in a connected sewer serving bungalows and properties around a little village green.

Dad-of-five Leighton, 41, said: “Without a doubt wet wipes are the number one problem with sewer blockages. We recently lifted a manhole to find it was almost full to the brim with them.

“You do find all sorts of others things wrongly put down the toilet or sink and into the sewers. I even saw a pair of underpants once and other clothing.

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“Nothing surprises me at times and every day is school day in this role, you are always learning something new.

“But the best part of the job is helping customers who can be very distressed by the blockages. But once everything is unblocked and back to normal, it’s like the weight of the world has been lifted.”

The brothers - who share the same mum - worked effortlessly well together at the scene, quickly identifying the blockage by lifting drain covers to investigate and then rodding and jetting them clear of the grim obstructions.

Leighton, a Manchester United fan, said: “The best part about working together is that we get on so well and read each other like a book.

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“And it’s a really satisfying job because we are helping customers every single day.

“We are pretty well known around here, some customers even ask for ‘the brothers’ if they get a blockage.”

Jayden, aged 28 and an Arsenal fan, said: “Obviously the job can be a little gross at times, but I love it because you get a real sense of satisfaction helping our customers.

“Educating people on what not to put down the toilet and sink is very important and I do think the message is slowly getting through.

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“And I love working with my brother. We saw each other growing up, but now we spend a lot more time together at work and also socially, including pool nights.

“We make a great team.”

Wet wipes remain one of the biggest offenders of blockages across the Severn Trent sewer network, including the East and West Midlands. Even some that say ‘flushable’ or claim to be biodegradable don’t break down like toilet paper. Other culprits are kitchen roll, cotton buds, nappies and sanitary products.

Around two and a half tones of wipes and other items which shouldn’t be put down the toilet are pulled out of our sewers every week, around the same weight as an African Elephant.

Severn Trent is now asking everyone to ‘Be a Binner, Not a Blocker’ and only flush the three Ps down the toilet – poo, pee and paper.

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Former Rolls Royce worker Bryan Lane, 82, had reported the Derby blockage, which could have been caused by any of the any households on his sewer network. He and wife of 64-years Eileen have lived in the area since 2006.

Grandad Bryan spoke to Leighton to thank him after the drains had been cleared and said he was impressed with the response from Severn Trent. “You’ve been brilliant, you’ve done an excellent job.”

He added: “We never flush wet wipes down the toilet ourselves, but obviously others in the area may be doing that.

“I just hope the message gets through to the public to stop doing this, so we do not have to deal with these kind of problems in the future.”

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Grant Mitchell, blockages strategy lead at Severn Trent, welcomed the new Government legislation on wet wipes containing plastic.

He said: "Every year our team removes 30,000 blockages from across our waste network, and each week we pull two and a half tonnes of wet wipes from our sewers, which weigh the same as a Range Rover.

“We absolutely welcome the government’s announcement as it will reduce plastics entering the environment through wastewater treatment sites, meaning that waterways and beaches will benefit from this ban.

“Whilst it’s good that there’s overwhelming public support for these proposals, what’s really important is for everyone to remember that only the three p’s - pee, poo and paper are flushed down the toilet.

"Ideally wipes, whatever they are made of, will go straight in the bin, which will help the environment.”

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