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Thames Water fatberg flusher Alex Saunders
Scott Chasserot

Things you only know if you’re a fatberg flusher

Written by
Sirin Kale

…according to Alex Saunders, 27.

Fatbergs can be as hard as concrete…

‘You’d think a fatberg would be soft, being mostly made of congealed fat, but they’re actually really hard to pull apart. We just discovered a huge one in a sewer in Whitechapel, and we had to use a saw to cut through it – that’s how hard it was. When you do cut into it, you find it’s stitched together with sanitary items.’

…and they smell like two Glastonbury toilets had a baby

‘Having stood over a manhole for the best part of a day, I’d say a fatberg smells of rotten eggs mixed with a foul-smelling public toilet. Maybe throw some rotten meat in there too.’

Fried chicken is partly to blame…

‘Our modern lifestyle is definitely a contributing factor. We love a bit of fast food, we have fattier diets, and those things didn’t exist back in the Victorian days when the sewer system was built by Bazalgette and his engineering team.’

…but wet wipes are the biggest problem

‘People love to wipe their bums with posh wet wipes, and they’re the worst! They’re the building blocks that allow fat to stick together. We’re telling people only to flush the three “Ps” down the loo – pee, poo and paper.’

Unblocking London’s sewers is hard work, but surprisingly fulfilling

‘The Whitechapel fatberg is one of the biggest we’ve ever found, and it’s turning out to be a bit of a monster to get rid of! I know that no one says, “I want to run a poo network when I grow up,” but when I reflect on what we’ve achieved, I feel so proud.’

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