Restaurants and food outlets are largely to blame for a 250-metre long fatberg clogging up a sewer under London’s Whitechapel Road.
The fatberg is one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of fats, oil and domestic disposables weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses.
It is blocking a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two Wembley football pitches and weighs-in at a staggering 130 tonnes.
Thames Water’s head of waste networks, Matt Rimmer, said “a lot” of the fat comes from food outlets despite a campaign to educate the foodservice industry on managing FOG produced by professional kitchens.
Engineers at the firm began visiting food outlets earlier this year to discuss how they dispose of fat and food waste, plus offer advice on grease trapping equipment for commercial kitchens.
It is set to take Thames Water engineers three weeks to get rid of the fatberg, which is 10 times bigger than the infamous fatberg it uncovered in Kingston in 2013.
Mr Rimmer said: “This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen. It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard.
“It’s basically like trying to break up concrete. 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.”
An eight-strong crew will use high-powered jet hoses to break up the mass before sucking it out with tankers, which take it away for disposal at a recycling site in Stratford.
They are painstakingly removing on average of 20 to 30 tonnes per shift with work starting at 8am and continuing until 5pm seven days a week.
CCTV camera inspections showed the 1200mm high by 700mm wide sewer to be totally blocked by the fatberg which is 3.5 metres deep below ground for 250 metres. Work will continue throughout September until the sewer is clear.
“When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play,” added Mr Rimmer. “Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties.”
Thames Water serves 15 million customers and spends around £1ma month clearing blockages from its sewers in London and the Thames Valley.