A surprising article came to our attention on Tuesday from the Guardian. You may or may not have heard of a new evil arising in our sewers and drainage systems. They are called Fatberg(s) and they are becoming one of the most difficult issues for our drains and possibly one of the worst in our modern times.
So, what is a Fatberg?
A quick search finds the official description to be “A fatberg is a congealed lump in a sewer system formed by the combination of non-biodegradable solid matter such as wet wipes with grease or cooking fat” (Wikipedia) and we think this pretty much sums it up. It’s not a pretty thing to look at either;
Humans are strange creatures and enjoy looking at the gross and weird things of the world. A large fatberg was found in London’s sewer network. This larger fatberg was dissected into chunks. These chunks are now on display in the Museum of London. Yes, you read that correctly. Chunks of everything that you shove down your loo or sink, including wet wipes, cooking oil, tampons, condoms; you name it a lump of it is probably mixed up in there somewhere in the Fatberg. They even found a toilet. Yes, an actual toilet.
In 2017 sewer inspectors found this fatberg in Whitechapel, London. It took nine weeks and team of 8 sewer specialists to breakdown. Pickaxes and shovels had to be used to break down the final section of the fatberg by hand. The final fatberg removed from the line weighed in at 130 tonnes. For reference that’s the same as 2 A318 Airbus aircraft or 11 double decker busses. It was 250 metres long. That’s longer than Tower Bridge which is 240 metres.
The sample can be viewed via the ‘Fatcam’ on Museum of London’s website. It’s currently in quarantine now and no longer on display. When it was on display, the piece changed colour, sweated and grown flies. Yellow pustules have now started to grow on the fatberg in qurantine. The yellow pustules have been identified as Aspergillus, a form of this pathogen can cause pneumonia. Good job it’s safely sealed! This just highlights the dangers that Fatbergs can cause in our sewers and drains.
How are fatbergs affecting us?
The workers in our sewers are in danger of being exposed to some nasty things, one saying in an interview with Vice that they must be extra careful when breaking apart the fatbergs in the sewers and drains as they released gases when disturbed. Can’t imagine it smells very good either!
This is just one of the many things in the media that is now highlighting just how awfully we are treating our sewers and drains. Each time a fatberg of large size is discovered it costs up to £220,000 to clear the blockage, which in turn is reflected in our water bills. No one wants to start having to deal with an increase in water rates so now is the time we all need to be thinking more about what we are putting into our drains and toilets.
To Flush or Not to Flush? That is the question!
Wet Wipes are a big problem across the network. They may state on the packaging they are ‘flushable’. This is not the case for around 95% of the wet wipe brands available on the market. The wipes build up in sewer and drainage systems and expand. Fat and oils can collect on these wet wipes. This creates huge masses known in the industry as ‘rag’ it looks something like this;
We encounter this kind of thing daily at Metro Rod. It becomes frustrating when the problem is easily avoidable. Bag your wipes in a biodegradable nappy bag as you would when changing a baby’s nappy and put it into the bin. This needs to be dealt with properly by a waste management site. Similarly, with cooking oil don’t just pour this down your household sink. Put it into a plastic bottle to be sent away to waste management to be dealt with properly.
Remember if its not one of the 3P’s, Pee, Poo or Toilet Paper, PLEASE DON’T FLUSH IT.
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