London Sewer Cleaning Program Removes 700 Tons of Fatbergs, Debris

London Sewer Cleaning Program Removes 700 Tons of Fatbergs, Debris

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Giant masses of fat, wet wipes and even solid concrete weighing more than three blue whales have been cleared from London’s sewers in the last year, according to officials from Thames Water Utilities Limited.

Just short of 700 tons of debris was removed by Thames Water engineers working underground in 12 major sewers across the city as part of the record cleaning program.

In total, Thames Water engineers cleaned more than 550 miles of sewers across London and the Thames Valley in the last year, a 50% increase on the previous year’s total and three times higher than in 2017-2018.

It means wastewater can continue to safely flow from the homes and businesses of millions of Londoners through the company’s Victorian-era network without being blocked by obstacles like fatbergs, which can cause flooding to properties and the environment.

Engineers spent a combined 11,000 hours carrying out the work, which included using high powered water jets to blast away blockages and powerful vacuums to suck them out.

They also had to use hand tools to break down some of the more stubborn blockages, including “concretebergs,” which occur when concrete is incorrectly poured down the drain and solidifies.

“While it isn’t the most pleasant of jobs, battling fatbergs and other blockages in our sewers is crucial in ensuring we’re able to safely take away the waste of millions of customers,” says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water’s head of waste networks. “Our engineers carried out a record amount of cleaning this year but we have plans to go even further next year to keep our sewers flowing.”

Some of the things the crews encounter underground highlight how important it is to ensure nothing gets into the sewer that shouldn’t be there, according to Rimmer. “We urge all our customers to only flush the three Ps — pee, poo and toilet paper.”

One of the largest jobs was in Greenwich, where a staggering 183 tons of unwanted material was cleared from a half-mile segment of sewer.

More than 100 tons of waste was also removed from Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. The longest job was in Waterloo Road, where engineers spent a combined 2,747 hours, or 114 days, clearing almost 100 tons of debris from another half-mile stretch of sewer.

Thames Water’s “Bin it, don’t block it” campaign offers guidance to customers on ways to avoid causing sewer blockages and tips on safely disposing of fats and oils or toiletries. Find out more about the utility’s Bin it, don't block it campaign here.


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