January 2017 -

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Post-Christmas Fatbergs Threaten London’s Sewers

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

[caption id="attachment_4153" align="aligncenter" width="680"]part of fatberg removed from a London sewer Part of a fatberg removed from a London sewer[/caption]

The Man-Made Menace Beneath Our Streets

Water companies fear that excess cooking fats disposed of over the Christmas period could have unfortunate consequences for our sewer systems. Most of us find ourselves overindulging on delicious food during the festive period, only to bemoan our tight waistbands come January. But it seems that Christmas dinner doesn’t just have an impact on our waistline - it is also contributing to the creation of enormous ‘fatbergs’ in London’s sewers, increasing the risk of blocked drains and flooding.

What are Fatbergs?

When cooking fat and other substances that are difficult to break down, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, enter the sewer system, they form large congealed lumps which water companies refer to as fatbergs. These fatbergs display similar properties to concrete - heavy, solid and dense - making them very difficult to clear and causing big headaches for water and drainage companies alike. And this is not just a small problem. Fatbergs can reach enormous sizes and, in some cases can even break the pipe it sits in. In 2015, a 40m fatberg, was cleared from the sewers beneath Chelsea in West London - resulting in over 2 months of repair work and an estimated cost of £400k. This ITV report takes a closer look at fatbergs, which reportedly cost around £12 million a year to manage.

The Christmas Effect

Fatbergs have been a growing problem in recent years, thanks largely to the rise in the use of wet wipes, but they also seem to be more prevalent at certain times of the year. For example, water companies have warned that sewers are particularly at risk of fatbergs

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