What is a Fatberg? Sewer Problems Explained

sewer tunnel worker examining a sewer

The formation of a fatberg occurs when things that shouldn’t enter the drainage system are flushed away, or drained down sinks. Items such as wet wipes, nappies and cotton buds, cooking fat, cooking oil, and grease cause fatbergs because they are items that cannot dissolve effectively in sewage systems. Toiletpaper does not contribute to the build of fatbergs because it can dissolve and break up during the flushing and draining process of the toilet. 

When disposing of the products listed above in inappropriate ways, it can cause a blocked sink or toilet as they congeal in your pipes. It is wise to call a professional if this occurs in order to solve these problems. We can provide CCTV drain surveys to find the root of the problem, as well as finding an appropriate remedy – such as drain jetting with state-of-the-art equipment. 

However, sometimes these items pass straight through your drainage systems and leave you without any problems. Great, you may be thinking; but they can also cause huge problems further down the sewage line where they can build up in sewers and pollute waterways. This problem has been seen in recent years as evidence of sewer pipes and waterways being blocked by giant fatbergs the size of double-decker busses have been uncovered – costing local authorities millions of pounds to clear away. 

How to Tell if Your Drains are Affected by a Blockage

If you think your drain may be blocked due to a fatberg or similar blockage, or there are signs that your sewage system may not be compromised, there are some signs to look out for that will let you know if you’re correct. These include: 

  • Water drain away facilities draining slowly
  • Foul smells emanating from your drains
  • Toilets rising too high or draining too slowly
  • Rising water levels, or flooding, from gullies or manholes
  • Pugholes overly gargling when draining

If any of these signs are occurring in, or around, your property then give our drainage engineers a call, as it could be a severe blockage or a fatberg. We can perform a CCTV drain survey to discover the root cause of the problem and find out the best approach to curing your drainage issues. Contact us today.

How to Prevent Fatbergs

Fatbergs have not only been a problem occurring in the UK, but they have also affected cities across the world due to bad habits and poor sewage practices. Problems with monster fatbergs have been found to be affecting sewage systems in Cambridge and Cardiff, as well as Australia, Canada, and New York. 

The best thing to do, in order to prevent any fatbergs from building up to this size, is to throw non-flushable and undrainable items into the bin rather than forcing them down your drains. Anything other than human waste and toilet paper should not be flushed down the toilet – otherwise, they could not only contribute to the buildup of these fatbergs, but they could also severely clog the drains on your property.

Even wipes labelled as flushable, such as makeup wipes, often contain plastic. This causes them to not be properly broken down in the same way toilet paper does, so it is highly recommended to just throw them into the bin before they cause a costly problem, and ensure you’re only flushing what can actually go into the toilet and the sink. 

It is also advised that, as well as making sure to avoid any plastic products from being flushed down the toilet, cooking fat is not poured down the drain. When it is in a liquid state and poured away, the fat hardens and binds other refuse together, creating an agent which acts as a glue to begin the process of creating a fatberg. In order to prevent this from occurring, make sure cooking fat is cooled and solid, and then scraped off into the bin. 

What was the Largest Fatberg?

The largest fatberg was discovered in the UK in 2017. Thames Water discovered a monster fatberg clogging sewage systems in Whitechapel, and it was the largest ever found in a UK sewer system. The monster fatberg, a mass of fat grease and other non-flushable items, weighed a huge 130 tonnes and spanned the length of two football pitches. The monster fatberg allegedly took a team of eight people from Thames Water several weeks to break down this huge blockage into smaller, more manageable, pieces; before it was able to be suctioned out of the system and recycled. 

Contact us Today for Expert Drainage Solutions

Our drainage experts here at Coastal Drains have been in the business for over 10 years. Over these years, we’ve gained the knowledge that allows us to effectively and efficiently deal with all sorts of drainage problems in the best ways possible. We are a family-run company, and we have a wide range of services on offer in order to bring your drains to the best working order possible. Whether you’re experiencing a blockage caused by a fatberg, or your septic tank is overflowing, we can be with you the same day throughout Sussex. Contact us today

Author: Greg Child

Greg is an expert in drainage and has been in the business for over 30 years. He's the owner of Coastal Drains Ltd and a very, very friendly chap.