Brace yourself! A fatberg is a sewer blockage made up of cooking oil, tampons, condoms, wipes and other items that should never be flushed in the first place. All these items are small enough to make it past the u-bend but they congeal together to form rock-hard blockages further down the line that can require a drill to shift. They can grow to gargantuan proportions, causing costly and very unpleasant damage.
Prepare yourself… images and video follows.
When a sewer is completely blocked by a fatberg, it backs up and overflows. This sends sewage and detritus like tampons flowing into rivers and natural waterways, ending up on the beach. The Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons, pads or wipes per 100m stretch of beach during their annual beach clean up in 2016.
Read our letter in The Guardian newspaper about this!
The overflow can sometimes be closer to home: on the high street, in your garden or even in your bathroom. The UK’s water companies spend an annual £88m per year clearing fatbergs and repairing the damage they cause. Not only do the resulting roadworks cause inconvenience but the price is inevitably passed on to householders in their water bills.
Here’s a mere armful of fatberg, fresh from the sewer:
This problem is found globally, with fatbergs and sewage pollution being reported right round the world. So we’re launching #FatbergWatch, to keep an eye on these monstrosities growing quietly underground and help rally support for their prevention.
At FabLittleBag, we’re supporting water companies in their campaign to ensure that only the 3 P’s are flushed: pee, poo and paper. The disposal of other “unflushables” is made much more pleasant with a FabLittleBag, encouraging better binning.
Here is our #FatbergWatch report on recent fatbergs, which we keep updated.
- USA – Cincinnati – Jun 2019 – 2 fatbergs caused sewage to flood into the Winton Woods fishing lak
- Ireland – Co Wicklow – Mar 2019 – 3 blockages removed in one day, including an 8 foot whopper
- USA – New York – Feb 2019 -The city reports that the cost of clearing fatbergs has doubled in ten years
- Canada – British Colombia – Feb 2019 -Prince George city is re-writing its by-laws to deal with blockages from unflushables
- UK – Liverpool -Feb 2019 – The northwest’s biggest ever fatberg is longer than a passenger plane and weighs 90 tonnes
- UK – Horsham – Feb 2019 – “People were walking past retching” after a blockage causes sewage to overflow
- UK – Staffordshire – Jan 2019 – A sewer blockage causes a “river of diarrhoea” to flow down a Cannock street
- UK – Sidmouth – Jan 2019 – Happy new fatberg! A 64m long monster is found below the Sidmouth seafront
- UK – Barrow – Dec 2018 – Streams of fat ooze out of drains in Barrow
- UK – Cardiff – Dec 2018 – An 800 tonne fatberg is excavated from under streets in Cardiff Bay
- UK – Truro – May 2018 – An overflowing manhole is found to be caused by a fatberg in the sewer below
- UK – London – May 2018 – A pensioner in Downham finds her garden flooded with sewage due to a latent fatberg growing under her home
- UK – Somerset – February 2018 – Reports just in of new fatbergs found in Yeovil and Gillingham
- Lake Taupō – New Zealand – Jan 2018 – Swimmers are being warned to stay away after a fatberg caused waste to spill into the lake
- Perth – Australia – Dec 2017 – A congealed mass of wet wipes and fat has been removed from the South Hedland system
- Worcester – UK – Dec 2017 – Workers are breaking down a 10m long fatberg, working round the clock to shift the solid lump under Sidbury Road
- Brisbane – Australia – Dec 2017 -‘Giant’ fatbergs are discovered in the city’s sewer system, reportedly costing rate payers thousands
- Spain – Valencia – Nov 2017 – The removal of a 1km long, 900 tonne “wipeberg” is underway, with a second one due to be cleared next year when more funds can be found.
- USA – Oregon – Nov 2017 – Portland reports 30 problem areas in the city, with impacted waste being cleared every 3 months
- New Zealand – Dannevirke – Nov 2017 – A fatberg found in the sewers of this country town has caused a sinkhole to open up and has led to an infestation of rats
- UK – Liverpool – Nov 2017 – United Utilities clears a 10 foot blockage from fatberg hotspot area
- Singapore – Oct 2017 – National water agency PUB attends 36 cases of “sewer choke” a month
- UK – London – Sep 2017 – The second fatberg this month in the London epidemic has been found in Chinatown, weighing as much as three elephants.
- USA – Maryland – Sep 2017 – Baltimore’s latest fatberg discharged around 1.2 million gallons of sewage into the Jones Falls
- UK – London – Sep 2017 – “Monster” fatberg found in Whitechapel, 250-metre long, weighing 130 tonnes. A section will be displayed in the Musuem of London for posterity, the rest will be used to create bio-diesel.
- UK – Belfast – Jun 2017 – “We discovered another fatberg on the Shankill Road which was so big, it rose to the top of the sewer and had been imprinted with the manhole!” – N.I. Water spokesperson
- UK – Cheltenham – May 2017 – Fatberg stretching the full length of the high street
- UK – extended coastline – Dec 2017 – Fatberg washed up on British beaches, all the way from the Caribbean
- UK – Durham – Jun 2016 – 3o yard blockage causing a drain to collapse
- UK – South Hykeham, Lincs, – Jun 2016 – A van size fatberg was removed from the sewer
- UK – Welshpool – 2015 – A sewer is found to be completely blocked for 120 metres
- UK – Kingston – 2013 – Bus-sized fatberg breaks all previous records
If you hear of a fatberg near you, please let us know as part of #FatbergWatch! If you’d like to try FabLittleBag for the fatberg-free disposal of tampons and pads, have a look here.