By Travis M. Andrews, (c) 2017, The Washington Post
Talk about dirty jobs.
A view of the fatberg inside a sewer in Whitechapel, London. (Thames Water via AP)
Crews in London are waging a sewer war against an enormous “fatberg” — a solid mass of congealed oil, diapers, hand wipes and other unsavory items — that is clogging a Victorian-era sewer in Whitechapel, London, according to a news release from British utilities company Thames Water.
It’s more than 250 yards long, longer than two football fields. And it weighs 130 tons, more than 10 buses. And it’s solid as a rock.
A crew of eight people is attempting to break the mass up using high-powered jet hoses. After it’s in pieces, they’ll suction it into tankers and bring it to a nearby recycling plant for disposal.
The process is expected to take three weeks.
“It’s basically like trying to break up concrete,” Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, said in a news release.
The fatbergs form when people dispose of cooking oil and other fats through their sinks and toilets. When the oil gets into the sewer, it often congeals with other waste that isn’t meant to be flushed, such as diapers or wet wipes.
“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,” Rimmer added.
While fatbergs are not uncommon, the size of this particular one is stunning, perhaps even record-breaking.
“This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen,” Rimmer said in a news release. “It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.”
The Museum of London says it is trying to acquire a chunk of the big one, the Associated Press reported.
Museum director Sharon Ament said Wednesday that adding the fatberg to its collection “would raise questions about how we live today and also inspire our visitors to consider solutions to the problems of growing metropolises.”
The museum hopes to obtain a cross-section of the fatberg. It hasn’t decided how it would be displayed.
These masses form in most major cities — in New York, for example, clearing out such blockages cost an estimated $4.65 million in 2013 — but they seem to be particularly problematic in London.
In 2015, a 10-ton fatberg broke a section of the London sewer, requiring Thames Water to replace nearly 100 feet of piping, …read more
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