IT’S the latest problem caused by the severe winter floods.

What are we going to do with the thousands of sandbags used across Hampshire to stem the tide of water?

Daily Echo:

But the good news is they are to be recycled – even if they have been exposed to sewage and waste water.

County council officials have confirmed they will be treated and decontaminated before going back into storage, where they will be ready in case the water level rises again.

A spokesman said: “Sandbags which have been used at individual homes and businesses and have not come into contact with contaminated water will be able to be used in the future, emptied and dug into soil, or taken to household waste recycling centres.

Daily Echo:

“The county council is currently advising householders to retain the sandbags until the flooding risk reduces further.

“These sandbags are classified as household waste and will be able to be received and then recycled.

“Empty sandbags can be placed in household bins for normal kerbside collections but not full sandbags because they are too heavy for the lifting equipment on refuse collection vehicles.”

Daily Echo:

However, council chiefs have warned people that none of the sand should be played with by youngsters.

The spokesman said: “The sand in the sandbags, even while not contaminated, is not suitable for children to play in or use in children’s sandpits.

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“Residents are being asked to take appropriate precautions when handling used sandbags, such as wearing protective gloves, and taking care when lifting.”

Sandbags are classed as contaminated in the following situations: l When deployed to retain raw sewage.

l When deployed to protect against or retain oil.

Daily Echo:

l When deployed to retain surface water or ground water, which has had continual exposure to sewage or oils.

l When they smell of sewage or oil.

l When they show signs of being contaminated by sewage or oil.

Where sandbags have been deployed by local authorities to whole streets or neighbourhoods, the local authority will take responsibility for their collection and will arrange for recycling at the appropriate time.

Daily Echo:

They will be collected in skips, in lorries or large containers by the district authorities, Hampshire County Council or the Environment Agency.

As reported by the Daily Echo, about 70,000 sandbags have been laid around Hampshire.

Some 21,000 were distributed by Winchester City Council to protect homes near the River Itchen and St Bede Primary School, which was temporarily evacuated.

Several one-tonne sandbags were also used to dam the Itchen near the M3 to stop a surge of water into the city.

They were also used across Romsey, where 300 homes were in danger from the River Test bursting its banks until troops from the Royal Engineers teamed up with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Environment Agency and Test Valley Borough Council to dam the river at Fishlake Stream.