A ‘fatberg’ as big as a bus?

Just what is a fatberg? The term is evocative, no? If it seems like a mash-up of “fat” and “iceberg,” that seems to be accurate from my reading. But, imagine a mass of fat so large that it’s the size of a bus!

There are news reports of sewer workers finding what is apparently an especially large fatberg in the pipes below London (UK). In one Canadian source (“‘Fatburg’ discovered in suburban London sewer&”), Danika Kirka of the Associated Press reported, “Utility company Thames Water says it has discovered what it calls the biggest ‘fatberg’ ever recorded in Britain — a 15-ton blob of congealed fat and baby wipes lodged in a sewer drain.”

Thames Water has a press release of its own dated 30 July 2013 describing the event. (The image links to it.) It includes extensive quotes from Mr. Gordon Hailwood, supervisor for the company, as well as an HTML5 video showing a trip through the sewer. He said

“While we’ve removed greater volumes of fat from under central London in the past, we’ve never seen a single, congealed lump of lard this big clogging our sewers before.

“Given we’ve got the biggest sewers and this is the biggest fatberg we’ve encountered, we reckon it has to be the biggest such berg in British history.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged with over 15 tonnes of fat. If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.

“It was so big it damaged the sewer and repairs will take up to six weeks.

“Homes and businesses need to change their ways, when it comes to fat and wipes, please remember: ‘Bin it — don’t block it.’”

Now, a note about spelling. Ms. Kirka’s headline writer used “burg” rather than “berg.” This makes some sense, as fat is rendered from burgers. However, the sewer folk’s press release uses the “berg” spelling, Ms. Kirka used that spelling in the body of her article, and “iceberg” is spelled with “berg”, so I’m going with it.

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