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london fatberg

Festering fatberg the weight of a small bungalow removed from London sewer

Image credit: thames water

Thames Water has removed a fatberg from a London sewer which bore the weight of a small house.

A fatberg is typically a rock-like mass of waste matter that builds up in sewer systems, formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solids, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat.

A large-scale 2017 study carried out by trade body Water UK estimated that non-flushable wet wipes make up approximately 93 per cent of the material causing the 300,000 sewer blockages experienced every year, costing the country £100m per annum to clear up.

Thames Water engineers worked with MTS Cleansing Services to clear up London’s latest fatberg using high-powered water jets and hand tools to chip away at the rock-like heap.

The blockage, which was located under Yabsley Street in the Canary Wharf area, smelled like composting festival toilets and rotten meat, according to the team that helped clear it.

Thames Water warned that if it had been left to grow it could have led to sewage spilling into homes and the environment.

“This was a huge, disgusting fatberg that took a great deal of brute force and teamwork to clear,” said Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks.

“Our brilliant engineers were able to clear the huge blockage before it caused serious problems, negotiating tricky and cramped working conditions along the way.

“We’d ask everyone to help fight the fatberg by only flushing the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink.”

While disgusting, the latest discovery pales in comparison to a monstrous fatberg discovered blocking a section of London’s sewage network in 2017 which weighed 130 tonnes and stretched the length of two football pitches.

The notorious fatberg – which was eventually removed and partially converted into biodiesel – helped raise awareness of the consequences of flushing non-biodegradable products.

Thames Water spends £18m each year clearing 75,000 blockages from sewers in London and the Thames Valley.

In 2019, the first wet wipes certified as ‘Fine to Flush’ went on sale after being shown to break down by themselves in sewer conditions.

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