They're the hardy souls who turn out all hours and in all weathers to unblock sewers and keep the taps running for seven million people across the North West.
Now a new no-holds-barred documentary on 5Spike (Freeview channel 31) will show life at the sharp end for the staff of regional water firm United Utilities.
Sewermen hits the nation’s TV screens next week and follows the trials and triumphs of the men and women whose job is delivering some of our most vital and least glamorous household services – water and wastewater.
Sometimes hilarious, often icky, but always interesting, the first show will broadcast at 9pm on June 20 on 5Spike, with the rest of the series continuing on subsequent Thursdays.
The prime time observational documentary series is made by Label1 TV, the production company behind the BBC’s multi award-winning Hospital, now about to go into its fifth series, School, about the education system and BBC Two’s new quiz show Family Brain Games.
Fatbergs, blockages and goo are the order of the day, but it’s not all about sewers. The series also follows United Utilities’ clean water staff as they keep the region’s tap water up to scratch and work against the clock to build the UK’s biggest new water pipeline in Cumbria.
Among the show’s ‘stars’ are wastewater technicians Steve Burrows from St Helens and Steve Iveson from Birkenhead, whose jobs are to respond to and sort out sewer problems affecting customers.
The show follows the two Steves as they clear blockages and floods in homes and businesses across Cheshire.
Steve Burrows said: “My girlfriend, who also works for United Utilities, put my name forward. It was a shock, but then I thought it is a once in a lifetime opportunity so why not.
"Now I’ve done it I think it was a really good experience and a great opportunity to show people on the outside how United Utilities as a company works and how much it means for us to go above and beyond for our customers every day.”
Steve Iverson added: “I think the show might open lots of people’s eyes about what United Utilities does but I’m really hoping the show catches all the interactions with them, as talking to them and making them happy is 100 per cent where I get my job satisfaction.
"My family are all looking forward to seeing it and might open lots of people’s eyes about what we do.”
To make the programme, Label1 cameras got unique behind the scenes, under the ground and round the bend access to United Utilities 5,000 employees and almost 120,000 kilometres of pipes from Carlisle to Crewe.
The first episode sees the launch of a mammoth water pipeline tunnelling machine under the Lake District as well as a flooded pub in Blackburn and whiffy basement in Birkenhead.
Commenting on why United Utilities had decided to open its doors, Customer and People Director Louise Beardmore said: “We’re one of the North West’s most familiar household names and millions of people rely on us.
"The chance to show our customers the real people who keep the region’s tens of thousands of kilometres of pipes flowing was not to be missed. They keep smiling even when the job gets really difficult and the pride they have in serving our customers just shines through.”
Executive Producer for Label1, Rachel Morgan said: “At Label1 we have never got quite so down and dirty during a production! The access was unprecedented. Very few productions have been allowed into the miles of pipework beneath our feet.
"From waste to clean water, the call centre, the labs, to the big infrastructure engineering projects, United Utilities staff put themselves on the line and in front of the camera. We are very proud of the revealing, warm and humorous series they and all at United Utilities were brave enough to allow us to make.”
United Utilities provides water to more than seven million people and provides an essential service to every home and business in the North West. Its staff manage 42,000 kilometres of water pipes and 77,000 kilometres of sewage networks across a vast and varied region with differing environments posing a new set of challenges.