Happy Drains Blog

The horror of Fatbergs!

What’s 6 feet tall and weighs the same as 3 double decker buses?

The answer is the latest giant fatberg found in our sewers.

And if you don’t know what a fatberg is, and how we can stop them, read on!

A fatberg is the name for a giant blockage in a sewer system that’s made up of fats, oils, grease, and other items that shouldn’t have been flushed away – like wet wipes, condoms and tampons. This particular fatberg in East London was 35 metres underground, weighed 35 tonnes, and took a team of 20 people 11 days to clear, at enormous cost and personal risk. As these monsters of the deep contain all kinds of bacteria, workers need full protective gear. Not a job for the faint-hearted!

So how do fatbergs form? If hot fats and oils from cooking are poured down the sink, they’ll flow down the pipes easily enough – but as soon as they cool, or reach a slow-moving part of the sewer, they will start to solidify. That can then trap other items that haven’t dissolved or degraded and build up into massive conglomerations underground. These can become rock hard over time, they’re not soft and squidgy, but as solid as concrete.

If a sewer gets blocked because of a fatberg, it can cause sewage to back up into people’s homes. The reduced capacity of the sewer also means that the overflows within the sewage network need to be used, causing raw sewage to be dumped into rivers, streams or the sea. 

The solution to the horrors of fatbergs is simple. Bin it rather than flushing it. Use a paper towel or scrape off excess fats and food into your food recycling bin rather than down the kitchen sink. Don’t use hot water to liquify fats so they drain away. And only flush the 3 P’s down the toilet – pee, poo, and toilet paper. Sanitary products, wet wipes, nappies, cotton pads and other items should be binned instead. And of course if you suspect there’s any kind of blockage in your drainage system – whatever the cause – give us a call at Happy Drains on 0800 849 8099 and we can come and investigate.