Fatbergs: not the latest stupid London food trend, but something much more disgusting. Ready? When things like wet wipes, condoms and nappies get flushed down London’s toilets, they can get tangled up with congealed fat and oil from cooking. The whole thing gets bigger and bigger until it clogs up a whole sewer with solidified fat – which is what has happened this week beneath Whitechapel Road in east London.
The Whitechapel fatberg stretches for 250m underground – longer than Tower Bridge – and weighs 130 tonnes: about the equivalent of half a million tubs of lard. It’ll take eight engineers three weeks to get it out of the Victorian sewer, using high-pressure hoses and tanker lorries, because it’s set so hard that the process is ‘basically like trying to break up concrete’. That’s according to Thames Water, which is advising Londoners to bin wet wipes rather than flush them into the city’s sewers.
However, there is a silver lining to all this grossness: the Museum of London wants to acquire a cross-section of the fatberg for its collection. ‘The discovery of this fatberg highlights one of the many issues London has to deal with as it grows and evolves,’ said the museum’s director, Sharon Ament. The fatberg is due to end up on a recycling site in Stratford, but if the museum’s bid is successful then you might be able to gawp at a preserved chunk in years to come. Well, it’ll make a change from the Rosetta Stone.