Devon

Sidmouth fatberg: Your questions answered

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Media captionSouth West Water has urged people "not to feed the fatberg"

A 210ft (64m) fatberg is causing some problems in the seaside town of Sidmouth.

The congealed mass of fat, oil and rubbish - plus other things you definitely shouldn't put down your toilet - has solidified, putting pressure on the sewer system.

It could take a couple of months to clear the blockage, which South West Water has described as a "monster".

Here are the answers to some of the questions you've sent in.


How do you remove fatbergs?

With great difficulty and a fair bit of, ahem, elbow grease.

This one could take about eight weeks to remove, it is estimated.

Teams from South West Water will be using specialist sewer jetting equipment and good old-fashioned manual labour.

It's a case of shovels and pick-axes after that.


Does the fatberg smell? I imagine it does.

Your imagination is correct.

This is a huge congealed mass of fat, rubbish and anything that people flush down the toilet, whether it's meant to be flushed or not.

The smell is not pleasant, which is why the teams that are sent down to remove it will have to wear full breathing apparatus.

Alex Saunders from Thames Water, which dealt with an even bigger fatberg in 2017, described the smell as "rotting meat mixed with the odour of a smelly toilet".

Lovely.


Could the fatberg be burnt to provide electricity?

The fatberg could yet have a useful purpose.

South West Water said is doesn't want to clog up landfill sites, so will attempt to put the debris to better use.

It will take the remains to be processed at a plant which turns waste into electricity.

So you could be using the power from the fatberg to fry your chips in the future.

Take a look at how one company uses fat from the sewers to make biodiesel:

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Media captionHow one company is turning sewer fat into biodiesel

Is it indestructible?

In short, no - but it is a solid, congealed mass of fat, and has been compared to breaking up concrete.

The use of high-pressure water jets and pick-axes suggests the fatberg won't go away without a fight.


How long will it have taken for this to build up and how was it discovered?

Fatbergs can build up pretty quickly, but South West Water said that a mass this big could have been there for a couple of years.

It was discovered in December during a routine check of the sewers - just in time for Christmas.


Why has the removal been delayed for four weeks?

The removal is due to begin on 4 February - the reason for the delay is that South West Water needs to get planning permission to have vehicles on site.


Can we fatberg-proof the sewage system?

Prevention is better than cure, as the old saying goes.

Fatbergs are caused by people pouring cooking fats and oils down the sink, and putting items such as wet wipes down the toilet.

If you're not sure what can and can't go down your toilet, watch this:

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Media captionWhat causes fatbergs?

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