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Havering named as “gruesome” fatberg hotspot

PUBLISHED: 08:41 05 November 2015 | UPDATED: 08:41 05 November 2015

Thames Water Catchment Engineer Rob Smith works to clear a blockage of fat and sanitary products from a London sewer Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Thames Water Catchment Engineer Rob Smith works to clear a blockage of fat and sanitary products from a London sewer Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA

PA/Press Association Images

Gruesome deposits of congealed cooking fat, wet wipes and cooking oil in the sewers are causing road closures and high water bills for residents in the borough.

Thames Water has revealed 12,386 blockages were cleared from Havering sewers in the last five years.

The borough is the second worst across London, only topped by Bexley where 13,386 fatbergs were cleared.

The gross conglomerations of congealed fat clump together with other waste products to form solid concrete bricks in the sewers.

Sewer engineers often discover non-flushable items including condoms, tights, tampons, cotton buds and syringes inside the fatbergs.

Now Thames Water, which spends £1 million a month clearing the sewers, is launching a campaign to educate residents on the problem.

As part of the “Bin it – don’t block it” campaign, 70,000 customers in Havering will receive letters urging them not to flush anything except human waste or toilet paper.

“Fat traps” will be available which residents should use to throw used cooking waste in the bin.

Thames Water’s sewer operations manager for Havering and Barking, Jon Wright, said: “The sewers serve an important purpose - they are not an abyss for household rubbish.

“Cleaning pots and pans with washing up liquid does not break down fat, oil and grease for good.

“When it hits the cold sewers, it clings to wet wipes and hardens into gruesome fatbergs which cause blockages in the pipes.”

The team spend hours removing the blockages every day, which increases the wear and tear on the pipes, Jon said:

“The more fatbergs there are the more damage they cause, which inevitably results in us having to dig up roads to fix broken sewers - all of this causes disruption to our customers, and ultimately makes an impact on customer bills.”

Across the borough, billboards and posters will encourage residents to change their habits.

Thames Water’s head of customer field services, Jerry White, said: “Often people just don’t realise the consequences of putting things other than human waste and toilet paper down their toilets and drains - the term ‘flushable’ doesn’t mean biodegradable and therefore will cause a blockage.

“Having sewage flood your property or business as a result of a blockage is hugely distressing and, in many cases, avoidable.

“We hope this major information campaign will educate people and encourage them to ‘Bin it - don’t block it’, enabling sewers to do the job they were designed to do.

“To have so many sewer blockages in one borough is unacceptable.”


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