Here’s a riddle for you: What’s made up of oil, grease, wet wipes, fecal matter, and condoms, smells like death, and frequently plugs up the sewers underneath major cities? Give up (on ever eating again)? It’s a fatberg! And there’s currently an 820-foot-long one as massive as a blue whale really cloggin’ up ye olde pipes underneath London. But make no mistake about it, at one point or another, the fatberg comes for us all.
Report of this particularly phenomenal fatberg comes from BBC News, who spoke with Matt Rimmer, head of Thames Water. “It’s a total monster,” Rimmer said of the fatberg, “and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.” There you have it folks. A hard monster fatberg. That is a string of words nobody should ever want or have to see. But you just have. And if you really want an up close and personal look at what a fatberg’s like, watch the following clip from BBC Earth Lab:
The origin story of the monster fatberg is really a retelling of the classic villain origin story. That is to say, it all begins with the dark side of humanity. Or at least in this case, the side of humanity that flushes oil down the sink and wet wipes down the — we’re talking about London here – “loo.”
The problem is twofold. First, room-temperature oil and heated fats that are poured down the drain eventually hit the cold sewers where they both begin to congeal and harden. Second, people keep flushing wet wipes down the toil-loo, and they don’t disintegrate like normal toilet paper. In fact, they’re designed with hearty fibers to be quite resilient. The hardened oils and fats cling to the wet wipes, and suddenly it’s Fatberg ahoy!
The most recent fatberg found in London, from September 2017.
Don’t look down your sump pump at London as the only place where fatbergs lurk, however. A little digging reveals fatbergs underneath many major cities, including New York City, which, according to The New York Times, paid about $4.65 million in 2014 to clear up what it referred to as FOG or “Fat Oil and Grease” from its sewers. Although FOG doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as fatberg does it? Incidentally, the sewer Titanic capsized when it couldn’t see through the FOG and hit a fatberg. RIP sewer Titanic.
As for what you can do to help prevent fatbergs, the advice is pretty simple: “Bin it, don’t block it,” London water management says. Or you can just take Leela’s advice.
What do you think about this hulk of a fatberg? Clog the comments section below with your thoughts!
Images: BBC Earth Lab
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