Last Friday night, September 23rd saw Culture Night in Waterford city. There was a range of excellent events throughout the city and county. Think Before You Flush were delighted to be there with their ‘Sanitation In The City’ walking tour. The tour transported the 25 attendees back in time to a Waterford City very different to today, when tenements lined the city streets and due to the lack of basic water and sanitation disease was rampant and the streets often acted like open sewers. Not a pretty picture 

Think Before You Flush is run by Clean Coasts in partnership with Irish Water, the message of this environmental awareness campaign is simple, in the bathroom only flush pee, poo and paper, everything else belongs in the bin. These seemingly small actions can have a greatly positive impact on our water system, waterways, the coast, and marine life.  

Waterford is a city built on the water; the clue is in the name! However, like many Irish towns and cities in the 1800’s and early 1900’s overcrowding and poor services led to unacceptable tenement living conditions such as inadequate water and sanitation which in turn led to disease, illness, and avoidable deaths in addition to antisocial behaviour. However, this tour wasn’t all be doom and gloom, there were also stories of community and joy in difficult times, it was an alternative way to talk about this wonderfully historic city and look at the modern city in a new way.  

Why must you #ThinkB4UFlush? 

Think Before You Flush is a public awareness campaign operated by Clean Coasts in partnership with Irish Water, addressing the issue of flushing unsuitable down the toilet. Unlike toilet paper, which is designed to disintegrate quickly in our pipes and sewage systems, the synthetic materials in items like wipes, cotton buds and sanitary products makes them very strong and unable to break down and possibly leading them to end up in the waterways and on our beaches.   Almost 2,000 blockages occur in the Irish wastewater network every month, 75% of which are caused by wipes. Raising awareness of this issue reduces the number of blockages created by this behaviour.  

Speaking about the campaign Elaine from Clean Coasts, said: “We were delighted to bring the Think Before You Flush message to Waterford City for Culture Night. This walking tour was a fun way to talk about the importance of water and sanitation in our lives and how we need to protect these precious resources. The Think Before You Flush message is to only flush the 3 P’s, pee, poo and paper, everything else belongs in the bin. Thinking and talking about life without sanitation allows us to see the impact we can have on our waterways from our own bathrooms. The power of every flush.” 

Irish Water’s Richard Ó hEadhra said; ” We are proud to be involved in events such as Culture Night. Although sanitation back in the 1800’s wouldn’t have been to the standards they are today, it’s important to look back and learn from the past. Any opportunity we have to remind the public about what not to flush down the toilet, we will grasp, as it helps get the word out to think before you flush. This always helps us reduce problematic occurrences at pumping stations and treatment plants where poor toilet flushing habits has seen wipes, sanitary products and other non-flushable items flushed down the toilets in Waterford and right around the country.” 

While no one needed to mind their step on the tour we did walk and talk about the lives of people living in those times, where preventable diseases proved fatal due to the lack of basic sanitation and water, services we thankfully take for granted these days. We talked about the impact we can have in our own convenience driven lives on the local environment, mainly it’s waterways. Our past and our present are part of our culture, we should never take for granted the services we have and most importantly how a simple action like flushing the toilet can have a huge impact on our environment.