LONDON — If you’re eating while reading this, stop.
For those lucky enough to have escaped past news of giant masses of hardened fat and other waste blocking sewers, congratulations. For many Brits, however, “fatbergs” are becoming more common — and they’re being discovered not just in cities but also in seaside towns.
A “fatberg” — made up of grease, sanitary items, condoms and other waste products — is the term used to describe a solidified mass that lurks underneath sidewalks and in sewers, often causing blockages and damage that takes several weeks to resolve.
Longer than six double-decker buses, a 210-foot fatberg was discovered in Sidmouth, southwest England, last month. Described by South West Water as an “unwanted Christmas present,” the mass is expected to take eight weeks to destroy. Work to dissect the clump of filth is expected to commence in February, weather permitting.
Taking to Twitter, South West Water’s director of wastewater, Andrew Roantree, said of the discovery:
“It is the largest discovered in our service history and will take our sewer team around eight weeks to dissect this monster in exceptionally challenging work conditions. Thankfully it has been identified in good time with no risk to bathing waters.”
In a video, Roantree appealed to residents, asking them to remember the “three Ps” when disposing of waste such as cooking oils and wet wipes.
“Only flush the three Ps: pee, paper and poo,” he said. “Anything else needs to go into the bin. The same applies in the kitchen.”
The latest fatberg even has its own Twitter account, and it goes by the handle: @Fatberg_Devon. Recent tweets include: “FEED ME” and “FEED ME.......TONIGHT.”
Despite the fatberg’s slew of tweets, Roantree has urged locals not to feed the fatberg and to dispose of waste in bins instead.
In 2017, a fatberg was discovered blocking an East London sewer. That fatberg was longer than two football fields and weighed 130 tons — more than 10 average-size buses. The mass took weeks for a team to dissect and was described by Thames Water as “a total monster.” Pieces of the giant clump went on to be displayed as part of an exhibition at the Museum of London last year.
In 2015, a 10-ton fatberg famously broke part of a London sewer, forcing almost 100 feet of pipework to be replaced.
Fatbergs are not an issue in the United Kingdom alone. According to National Geographic, fatbergs have caused problems worldwide, from Ireland to China to the United States.
As news of the most recent fatberg discovery spread, many were repulsed. Others were rather fascinated, however, with one Twitter user asking South West Water the all-important question:
“Can I slide down it before you bin it please?”