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'Fatberg' Lurks in London Sewers

Friday, September 15, 2017

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A terror lurks in London’s sewers—a concrete-hard mass that looks like something straight out of a horror novel.

Known as a fatberg, the 820-foot long sewer blockage weighs 130 tons and lurks beneath a busy Whitechapel road. While its rough exterior makes it appear aged, this septic phenomenon can crop up as fast as a nightmare.

Fatberg Formation

A number of factors go into the formation of fatbergs, noted Thames Water, the company tackling the monstrosity. What can begin the formation of the clog are fats and oils poured down the sink, and the flushing of non-flushables (food waste, sanitary towels and wet wipes as a few examples).

Once flushed, these items combine into one solid mass in the sewer pipes, which can result in blockages and flooding.

Thames Water

Known as a fatberg, the 820-foot long sewer blockage weighs 130 tons and lurks beneath a busy Whitechapel road. While its rough exterior makes it appear aged, this septic phenomenon can crop up as fast as a nightmare.

"Fatbergs, even ones the size of this, can appear incredibly quickly, due to a number of factors such as the change in temperature," Alex Saunders, sewer network manager at Thames Water, told BBC.

According to Saunders, the fatberg’s smell is about as appealing as its appearance: a combination of rotting meat and a smelly toilet.

Battling the Beast

In the case of the London fatberg, the behemoth was uncovered during a routine inspection, a catch that will help prevent future issues as the water company can work to get rid of it before more serious problems arise.

“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,” Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said in a statement.

What remains, however, is the final battle against the beast: breaking it down.

According to Saunders, eight workers have begun using high-powered jet hoses to reduce the blockage to manageable chunks. From there, the pieces will go to a Stratford recycling plant to be transformed into renewable energy.

Working from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., workers will continue battling the fatberg seven days a week for the next three weeks, until the issue is resolved.

Saunders said that, overall, Thames Water spends 1 million pounds ($1,336,000) each month removing fatbergs like this one.

Museum Bids on Monster

Once the beast has been conquered, the Museum of London aims to display a piece of the fatberg.

Sharon Ament, museum director, told The Telegraph that the fatberg could be one of the most extraordinary objects in a museum collection in London.

"If we are able to acquire the fatberg for our collection I hope it would raise questions about how we live today and also inspire our visitors to consider solutions to the problems of growing metropolises,” Ament added.

Before making a bid, however, the museum would have to see that a section could in fact be conserved.

   

Tagged categories: Health and safety; Project Management; Sewer systems

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