It weighs as much as a whale, it’s as long as a bridge and there’s no way it smells very good.
But if you flush wet wipes down the toilet or wash grease down the drain, a “fatberg” like that one that’s clogging London’s sewers could be forming in a sewer near you.
London’s latest fatberg — a congealed, rock-hard mass of fat, grease, wet wipes, used diapers, condoms and more — clocks in at 130 tons, and it’s more than 800 feet long, according to the BBC.
Thames Water told the BBC that it’s one of the largest fatbergs London’s sewer system has seen, and that removing it could take as long as three weeks.
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“It’s basically like trying to break up concrete,” Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, told the BBC. “It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.”
The fatberg is also proof that Londoners have been flushing and draining things they definitely shouldn’t.
“It’s frustrating as these situations are totally avoidable and caused by fat, oil and grease being washed down sinks and wipes flushed down the loo,” Rimmer said.
Getting rid of the fatberg will require eight workers to use high-pressure hoses to break it up. Then they’ll suck up the broken pieces of the fatberg, gather them all in tankers and send them to a recycling site in Stratford, England.
Even scarier than the fatberg in London’s sewers is what would have happened if inspectors hadn’t found it: Raw sewage could have flooded onto the streets of the east London neighborhood where it formed, according to The Guardian.
“We check our sewers routinely but these things can build up really quickly and cause big problems with flooding, as the waste gets blocked,” Rimmer said. “It’s fortunate in this case that we have only had to close off a few parking bays to get to the sewer. Often we have to shut roads entirely, which can cause widespread disruption, especially in London.”
Thames Water clears three fat blockages every hour across London and the Thames Valley, the company tells The Guardian — though most aren’t as big as the one bedeviling London’s sewers this week.
The Guardian also reports that Thames Water is looking into putting fatbergs to use—transforming them into biodiesel to power buses, for example.
“Let’s be clever, remove them, and then do something good for the environment,” Simon Brum, strategic recycling manager at Thames Water, said in a news release earlier this year.