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Fatberg the size of 19 elephants blocking London sewage system

A congealed lump of fat, sanitary pads, wet wipes, condoms, diapers and similar items found in sewer systems, which do not break down like toilet paper, is blocking a section of London’s ageing sewage network.


Officially referred to as a ‘fatberg’ by Thames Water Utilities, the mass is one of the biggest on record – and might have flooded the streets of Whitechapel, east London, had it not been discovered during routine maintenance.

Workmen are spending seven days a week trying to break it up. The process will probably last three weeks.

“This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen. It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard. 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,” the Guardian quoted Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, as saying.

“We check our sewers routinely but these things can build up really quickly and cause big problems with flooding, as the waste gets blocked. It’s fortunate in this case that we have only had to close off a few parking bays to get to the sewer. Often we have to shut roads entirely, which can cause widespread disruption, especially in London.

“Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish and our message to everyone is clear: please ‘bin it – don’t block it’.”

Almost 10 times bigger than the the fatberg found in Kingston, London, four years ago, this one weighs about 130 tonnes and is approximately 250 metres long – that’s the size of two airbuses or 19 elephants.



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