Why Fatbergs Are A Thing and How To Prevent Them

What is a fatberg?

To understand the situation we first need to know what is a fatberg. The Oxford Dictionary defines a Fatberg as,

‘A very large mass of solid waste in a sewerage system, consisting especially of congealed fat and personal hygiene products that have been flushed down toilets.’

A fatberg begins to form when items that should not be flushed down our toilet or emptied into the kitchen sink travels down into the sewers. Hygiene products can include wet wipes (despite label suggesting flushable), cotton buds, sanitary products, syringes, and condoms. In addition, food scraps, cooking oil, coffee grounds, and tea leaves that find their way down the kitchen sink all help create the monster below and block your pipes.

Fatbergs first became a known issue when it made headlines in the UK in 2013 and 2015 but it wasn’t until 2017 when one of the largest fatbergs was discovered. Lurking beneath the surface in Whitechapel, east London, laid a 250 metre monster predominantly made of wet wipes, condoms, sanitary towels, cotton buds, and nappies. The abomination was as heavy as 19 African elephants (approx. 130 tonnes) and as long as the Tower Bridge, and smells exactly how you think it does – putrid. A dedicated team employed by Thames Water ventured into the sewers, and using high-pressured jet hoses, pick axes, shovels, and vacuum pipes, began to dismantle and remove the fatberg into tankers at 20 to 30 tonnes per day. All that remains is a fragment of shame that is on display at the Museum of London.

Perth is no stranger to this phenomenon. Water Corporation says in 2016-2017, nearly 40 per cent of all wastewater blockages in Perth were caused by fat, oil, grease and items such as rags and wet wipes were accumulating in the wastewater system.

Whitechapel fatberg in Museum of London
Whitechapel fatberg in Museum of London
Source: the Guardian

How to prevent fatbergs

In a bid to prevent fatbergs from forming the Water Corporation have created an educating campaign to increase awareness and prevention of fatbergs in our wastewater system. Knowing what and how to dispose of the following is key in preventing a fatberg disaster:

The next time you think about flushing something other than toilet paper down your toilet, just think about the 250 metre gag-worthy monster that lived underneath London.

If you are currently experiencing any plumbing blockages or issues, contact the friendly staff Gillies Group for some professional advice.

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