Thames Water clears bus-sized fatberg from London sewer

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A huge 40-tonne fatberg blocking a sewer in South London has been cleared following a heroic effort by Thames Water engineers, who even pulled out some of the monster blockage with their hands. 

The mass, which weighed the same as three red buseswaclogging up an underground sewer in Greenwich and was discovered earlier this year. 

Determined workers from Thames Water spent three weeks clearing the fatberg, using a combination of high-powered water jets to blast the blockage loose and removing the debris by hand. 

They pulled out tonnes of fat, grease and other material as they battled the fatberg, which at points had taken up 80 per cent of the sewer’s capacity. 

If left, it could have grown even bigger and caused problems in the waste network, including sewage backing up in to homes and businesses. 

Fatbergs are formed when fat, grease and oil is poured down sinks or drains and combines with “unflushable” items like wet wipes, nappies and cotton buds. 

Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said: “This was a massive and disgusting blockage that took a great deal of effort and teamwork to clear and get the sewer working well again. 

“I’m happy that our team was able to get down and work hard to quickly to clear the fatberg before it could cause problems for our customers and the environment. 

“We’d urge everyone to help fight the fatberg by only flushing the 3Ps - pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink. 

Thames Water’s network protection team has also been visiting food establishments in the areaensuring they are not putting fat, grease and oil down their sinks and that fat traps are installed and working properly. 

Businesses that allow fat, grease and oil to get in to sewers can face prosecution, fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds and may even be forced to close. 

Thames Water serves 15 million customers and spends £18 million every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers in London and the Thames Valley. 

On average, the company unclogs five house blockages and removes 30 tonnes of “unflushable” material from just one of its sites each day. 

This year, Thames Water is also supporting Unblocktober, the world’s first month-long national campaign and awareness month to improve the health of drains, sewers, watercourses and seas. 

In 2017 engineers cleared a giant 250-metre-long fatberg in Whitechapel. The mass was blocking a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of the football pitch at Wembley Stadium and weighed a staggering 130 tonnes. 

An eight-strong crew worked nine hours a day, using high-powered jet hoses to break up the mass before sucking it out with tankers. The waste was then disposed of at a recycling site in Stratford.