Fatbergs are a huge concern in public sewers, they are a result of people throwing things down the drain that don’t belong there. The main culprits are fat (hence the name), wet wipes, nappies, sanitary towels and condoms.
We deal with smaller scale versions of these on a daily basis regularly having to remove drain blockages from homes. When you throw liquid fat down the drain, it will solidify when it touches the cold sides of the drain and sick to it like glue, when another foreign matter is thrown down there these then stick to the fat, and the process continues until there is a full blockage.
This problem was so bad in London that a 130-tonne fatberg was created over the years and was 250m long. The blockage was finally cleared at great expense to the rates payer, and following the removal, it was later exhibited in the Museum of London, and also autopsied to see if the contents could provide some useful insights.
The composition of the fatberg was primarily cooking fat making up nearly 90% of the sample. Some of the wet wipes found in the sample were from brands labelled as flushable but were actually unable to disintegrate in a sewer.
The more concerning findings were the illegal drugs found in the sample. It showed a higher concentration of prohibited gym supplements than street drugs such as cocaine and MDMA. Hordenine and ostarine represented more than half the proportion of pharmaceuticals found in the sample, with ostarine being banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency for its muscle gain properties.
Potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria including listeria, campylobacter and E coli were also found in the sample. This can be very hazardous to operatives who work in sewers, but also to the public in the event of a blockage, as contents of the sewers could come back up through domestic or commercial pipes causing flooding to homes and businesses.
Source: The Guardian