Giant “fatberg” invades seaside English town

Screenshot: Global News

It is the stuff of nightmares, or a John Carpenter movie: NPR reports that the British seaside town of Sidmouth has been plagued by a 210-foot “fatberg” in its sewer pipes. The “monstrous clump” is made up of hardened fat, oil, wet wipes, and other garbage items. South West Water reports that the sewer obstruction is “largest discovered in our service history.”

But not the largest ever: A previous “fatberg,” weighing in at 130 tons, was discovered in London’s East End in 2017, and eventually went on display at the Museum Of London for the horrifyingly curious.

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If the South West Water utility firm has its way, this fatberg will be pulverized instead of being saved for exhibit posterity. SWW will attack the glob with “a sewer team using a combination of high-pressure jets and shovels and pickaxes” over the course of several weeks.

How can such fatbergs be avoided? Seems like some flushable wipes aren’t as flushable as you’d think. And tampons can also wreck havoc with sewer systems, as can any kind of oil down the drain. If you’re pouring bacon grease down the sink, not only are you feeding the fatberg, you’re wasting a deliciously precious commodity.

Last year, NPR spoke with Jeffrey Raymond, communications chief for Baltimore’s Department Of Public Works, which went after a city fatberg that caused a sewer overflow, resulting in around 1.2 million gallons of sewage into Jones Falls. Raymond advised: “It’s poo. It’s pee. And it’s toilet paper. If it’s not 1 of those 3, it doesn’t go down a toilet.” Fatberg-avoidance words to live by.

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Gwen Ihnat

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.