A block of hardened fat, oil and wet-wipes longer than six double-decker buses was discovered in the sewer beneath The Esplanade in Sidmouth, Devon. It has been predicted that it will take South West Water workers eight weeks to cut up and remove the 64-metre “fatberg”.
In 2017 the London Whitechapel Monster Fatberg was discovered which weighed the same as 11 double decker buses (130 tonnes) and stretching the length of two football pitches (250m).
Both discoveries have prompted the Water Companies involved to try and further educate the sewer users about pouring fats, oils and grease (FOGs) down the drains and how fatbergs are created. The FOG must have material to bind to and a typical culprit is wet-wipes which are flushed instead of binned. Wet-wipes flushed down toilets congeal with fats, oil and grease, gradually forming a hard mass. The myth that running hot water and pouring washing-up liquid down the sink ahead of fats, oils or grease will stop it building up and blocking the pipes is just that – a myth!. The recommendation is to keep a small container, such as an old margarine tub, to hand in your kitchen, into which you can pour oil and fat before safely disposing of it in the bin.
There is a simple set of rules for the bathroom too: stick to flushing the three Ps: pee, poo and (toilet) paper. Everything else – sanitary towels, nappies, cotton buds, condoms, dental floss, used plasters and whatever else you might think to chuck down the toilet – should go into the bin. Do remember that just because a product says it is flushable doesn’t mean that it is biodegradable. Wipes marketed as flushable will probably be able to make their way down your toilet, but will eventually clog up the pipes further along their journey.
Fatbergs are primarily a product of our disposable lifestyles. The solution to them seems to be to ensure that things that could clog up pipes end up in incinerators or landfill instead – a case of merely shifting the problem, rather than solving it.
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