The ‘fatberg’ clocks in at around 10 times the size of a massive blockage Thames Water found in 2013


In 2013, Thames Water in England found a bus-sized lump of fat in a sewer. The 15-ton obstruction of food fat and wet wipes was one of the largest ever discovered by the utility, and an eight-person crew needed three nights to remove it.

The “fatberg” remained an extreme go-to example for what FOG and nonbiodegradable wipes can do to a sewer line. That is, until Thames Water recently discovered a fatberg that makes the 2013 find seem miniscule — a 130-ton monster weighing the equivalent of 11 double-decker buses, blocking a stretch of London sewer 250 meters in length.

“This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen. It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard,” says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, in a press release. “It’s basically like trying to break up concrete. It’s frustrating as these situations are totally avoidable and caused by fat, oil and grease being washed down sinks and wipes flushed down the loo.”

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An eight-person crew started tackling the massive fatberg a couple weeks ago using high-powered jetting to break it up and vacuuming it out into tankers for disposal at a recycling facility. Work is running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and is expected to continue through the end of September.

“We check our sewers routinely but these things can build up really quickly and cause big problems with flooding,” Rimmer says. “It’s fortunate in this case that we’ve only had to close off a few parking bays to get to the sewer. Often we have to shut roads entirely, which can cause widespread disruption — especially in London.”

Thames Water has a “Bin it — don’t block it” campaign that mainly targets households and — alongside the discovery of the fatberg — two new campaign videos were released demonstrating how fat and wipes can be responsibly disposed of. According to the company, it has also had its engineers visiting food outlets this year to discuss how they dispose of fat and food waste and also offering advice on grease trap equipment for commercial kitchens.

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“When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play,” Rimmer says. “Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish and our message to everyone is clear — please ‘Bin it — don’t block it.’”

Source: Thames Water


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