You might have thought with all her extensive and expensive 3 Waters propaganda that Mahuta would have used some of the advertising to bring attention to this problem.
from Dr Mercola
In 2008,1 the term “fatberg” was coined to describe large masses of fat, oil and grease (FOG) that clog the sewer system and attract other objects flushed down the toilet.2 However, sewage systems were designed to only handle human waste and toilet paper.
As humans moved from hunters and harvesters to producers and traders, they began settling and populating cities.3 With population density came an increase in the amount of waste products produced and the necessity to dispose of it. The concept of hygiene did not develop until the Roman Empire began building sewage systems in the streets.
They also built latrines where people defecated in a squatting position in public. During the Middle Ages, much of what the Romans had developed was forgotten and only a few cities preserved some of the structures that the Romans had built. By 1830, the stench of human excrement in the city of London became unbearable and was accompanied by cholera epidemics and a high death toll.
After a devastating fire in Hamburg in 1842, a new sewage system was incorporated in the reconstruction that drained sewage into the sea and was cleaned weekly. Other European and U.S. cities followed suit and created similar systems. Eventually, city engineers designed closed systems that use water to transport the excrement.
By 1910, the cholera outbreaks had stopped,4 but a different problem had taken its place with epidemics of typhoid caused by the tainted waters. It was at this point that sanitary engineers began filtering and disinfecting drinking water. Some of these same sewer systems are still in operation throughout the U.S., and some are over 200 years old.5
One example of a sewage system that’s over 100 years old is the District of Columbia’s, which was developed and constructed in the early 1900s. But other such systems abound and are posing challenges to modern-day sewage engineers and city systems.
In Alabama alone, more than 400 systems asked the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for pandemic money to upgrade their systems.6 Montgomery, alone, applied for $225 million for their upgrades. But even upgrading the pipes and sewer system will not remove the fatberg problem.
What Is a Fatberg?
A fatberg develops inside the sewer system when clumps of FOG are joined by other nonbiological waste, most notably baby wipes. According to Newsweek,7 fatbergs are a relatively recent phenomenon and are driven in large part by wet wipes. Although wipes have been available since the 1960s, it wasn’t until they were marketed to adults as a ‘flushable’ alternative to toilet paper that fatbergs began to collect in city sewer systems.
While many of these wipes are labeled “flushable,” they don’t break down in the sewage system. Instead, FOG clings to the wipes and begins to collect other nonbiological waste products such as paper towels, sanitary pads, tampons, condoms and other products. As the fatberg grows, it undergoes a chemical reaction called saponification.8
This breaks down the fat and results in calcification that transforms the block into a hard and relatively immovable mass. Fatbergs collect all kinds of debris. In London, sewage workers have found false teeth, watches and pens.9 Other sewage workers have found planks of wood, tennis balls,10 bones, typewriters and bowling balls.11
Many of the larger objects may have been dumped into the system by lifting manhole covers. What’s in these fatbergs and the color of them will depend on the community where they are formed.12
Utility companies in New York and London have reported that restaurants are likely responsible for a large amount of the FOG flushed into the sewer systems.13 This in turn is exacerbated by a large number of wipes community members flush down the toilet. “It is hard not to think of it as a tangible symbol of the way we live now, the ultimate product of our disposable, out of sight, out of mind culture.” wrote Tim Adams in The Guardian.14
Fatbergs Are Dangerous and Expensive to Clean Up
Newsweek reports that in 2018, “90% of a London fatberg was composed of cooking fat.”15 The thing is, these fatbergs aren’t that easy to clean up: As demonstrated by a130-ton fatberg found in London in 2017, they not only can grow to an alarming size, but can turn into a mass as solid as concrete.
“They’re a particular menace in British cities, where narrow Victorian-era plumbing is easily overwhelmed by blockages and the population far exceeds what the system was built to accommodate,” Newsweek reports. Researchers have also found that fatbergs contain bacteria, including E. coli and listeria.
When fatbergs completely block the sewer lines, sewage backs up into toilets, roads and gardens releasing millions of gallons of water, sewage and bacteria. Matt Rimmer, head of waste networks for Thames Water in London called the cleanup of one fatberg a “total monster … taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove.”