Fatbergs are making the news at an alarming speed, which shows how big of an environmental issue they really are. These sewer ‘monsters’ are comprised of fats, oils, grease, wet wipes and hundreds of other hygienic and illicit items that should not be put down drains or flushed. Fatbergs grow quickly and quietly under our feet and we don’t even know they are a problem until there is a sewer backup.
Fatbergs Making News
Last week Thames Water in London found “two huge fatbergs together weighing almost 100 tonnes and threatening to cause floods in homes and businesses over Christmas.” (The Guardian) Thames Water reports that they clear “about 75,000 blockages from its network of sewers each year, at a cost of £18m ($23.4M). The bulk are caused by cooking fats and oils, which congeal in the sewers forming a thick layer around the pipe. This prevents sewage from flowing and can cause it to back up, especially when products containing plastic – wet wipes, sanitary items and even nappies – mix with the fat and set hard, forming fatbergs”. (The Guardian)
In the United States, a fatberg flooded 300 homes in New York City. It pushed human waste into approximately 300 homes causing extensive damage and displacing families right after the Thanksgiving holiday. Around the holidays people tend to rinse coking fats, oils and grease down their kitchen sink drain at an alarming rate, which leads to sewer blockages and overflows. This year New York City started a fatberg campaign and said that “the city spends approximately $18.8 million a year to degrease the sewers, deal with damage caused by sewer backups, and repair plant equipment and transport those items to landfill.
Smaller cities are also experiencing the financial burden of fatbergs, Detroit recently cleared a single 100-foot long fatberg found in an 11-foot diameter pipe at a cost of $100,000.
Fatbergs Damage Homes and Environment
A sewer overflow back into homes causes extensive property damage. Additionally, if the sewer pipe is on private property, you are responsible for all of the cleanup costs.
When a sewer backs-up, spills, and overflows, the delicate ecosystem is damaged and our waterways become contaminated. Blockages cause sewers to overflow. The EPA reports that there are between 23,000 and 75,000 U.S. sanitary sewer overflows a year, discharging up to 10 billion gallons of raw sewage (Business Insider).
Contaminants in the environment can look and smell pretty bad, but their impact goes beyond just aesthetics. Some pollutants resist breakdown and accumulate in the food chain. These pollutants can be consumed or absorbed by fish and wildlife, which in turn may be eaten by us. Chemicals can also get into sediments, impacting large coastal areas, threatening human health, and reducing the economic well-being of regions that depend on a healthy coastal environment (NOAA).
Don’t feed the fatberg! Fatbergs are a modern day environmental issue that we all need to work on addressing. By properly disposing of all cooking fats, oils and grease you help keep fatbergs and sewer overflows at bay.
Join Our Mission to save the environment and properly dispose of Fats, Oils, and Grease.