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Bungalow-sized fatberg defeated in Canary Wharf sewer

Friday 19th February 2021 14:30

Two underground pictures of grey fatbergs in a brick sewer

A mammoth fatberg weighing the same as a small bungalow has been hacked clear from a Canary Wharf sewer by a tenacious team of Thames Water engineers.

An underground crew spent two weeks working with partners MTS Cleansing Services battling the monster blockage, which had been quietly growing underneath Yabsley Street in East London, and was clogging up long sections of the six-foot wide sewer.

If it had been allowed to grow any bigger, the rancid blockage – which smells of composting festival toilets and rotten meat – could have led to sewage spilling out into homes, businesses and the environment.

The intrepid engineers used a combination of high-powered water jets and hand tools to chip away at the solidified debris, fed full of fatty residue and unflushable items like wet wipes and sanitary products, as well as grit and silt.

The team also had to manoeuvre their way through a small side entry to get access to the main sewer, deep under London’s famous business district.

Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks, said: “This was a huge, disgusting fatberg that took a great deal of brute force and teamwork to clear. It was set hard and had to be destroyed piece-by-piece to get the sewer flowing properly again.

“Our brilliant engineers were able to clear the huge blockage before it caused serious problems, negotiating tricky and cramped working conditions along the way.

“We’re urging everyone to be especially careful what they flush down their toilets. Many items like wet wipes have plastic in them and won’t break down in the sewers, even if they say they’re flushable.

“We’d ask everyone to help fight the fatberg by only flushing the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, not the sink.”

Chris Henderson, sales director at MTS Cleansing Services, added: “This operation has freed up essential storage space within the sewer, which will be vital in times of high capacity. Our experienced confined space entry team, faced with a range of potential hazards, achieved great results in difficult conditions.

“MTS worked tirelessly from the planning stage to completion alongside Thames Water and we’re delighted with the result.”

Fatbergs are formed when fat, grease and oil is poured down sinks or drains and combines with items like wet wipes, nappies and cotton buds, which don’t break down in sewers.

Thames Water serves 15 million customers and spends £18 million every year clearing 75,000 blockages from its sewers in London and the Thames Valley.

On average, the company unclogs five house blockages and removes 30 tonnes of unflushable material from just one of its sites each day.

It is currently running its annual ‘Bin it – don't block it’ campaign, urging customers to be careful about what they put down their drains to help reduce the risk of blockages. Find out more here.

The Canary Wharf colossus is the latest in a long line of fatbergs to have been cleared from the capital’s sewers.

In October, a blockage as big as an African elephant was pulled from a sewer in Belgravia, while in 2019, Thames Water cleared fatbergs weighing a combined 140 tonnes from Greenwich, Pall Mall and the Shard.

MTS Cleansing Services are drainage and waste management specialists who have worked as a key contractor to Thames Water since 2001.