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Engineers battling to clear 800ft ‘fatberg’ blocking Whitechapel’s main sewer

PUBLISHED: 14:09 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:32 12 September 2017

The giant fatberg blocking up major sewer under Whitechapel Road. Picture: Thames Water

The giant fatberg blocking up major sewer under Whitechapel Road. Picture: Thames Water

Thames Water

A giant ‘fatberg’ is blocking a major sewer flow in east London deep beneath the Whitechapel Road.

Thames Water engineer in Whitechapel ready to clear 'fatberg' from the sewer. Picture: Thames WaterThames Water engineer in Whitechapel ready to clear 'fatberg' from the sewer. Picture: Thames Water

Engineers from Thames Water are in Whitechapel today to start a three-week sewer ‘war’ against a the 800ft long fatberg, one of the largest ever found in London.

The extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, cooking fat and oil weighs a staggering 130 tonnes, the same as 11 double decker buses.

The Whitechapel fatberg is blocking a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two Wembley football pitches and is around 10 times bigger than the famous Kingston fatberg found in 2013.

“This fatberg is up there with the biggest we’ve ever seen,” Thames Water’s head of waste networks Matt Rimmer said.

“It’s a total monster and taking a lot of manpower and machinery to remove as it’s set hard. It’s basically like trying to break up concrete.”

Work in Whitechapel Road to remove the immense fatberg has now started, with crews using high-powered jet hoses to break up the mass before suction tankers draw it out. The crews are removing 20 to 30 tonnes a day, working 8am to 5pm, seven days a week, removing the matter for disposal at a recycling site in Stratford. Work is continuing for the next three weeks until the sewer is clear.

CCTV camera inspections showed the sewer to be totally blocked by the fatberg stretching 800ft, 10ft below ground. Parking bays have had to be cordon off while engineers get access to the sewer beneath the surface.

“These things can build up really quickly,” Matt added. “They cause big problems with flooding, as the waste outlet gets blocked.”

Thames Water officials are frustrated at the blockage they say was “totally avoidable”. Such blockages are caused by cooking fat, oil and grease being washed down sinks and wipes and disposable nappies flushed down the loo instead of put in waste disposal bins.

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