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Fatbergs Clog Sydney’s Sewerage Systems

Sydney’s sewerage system are increasingly being clogged by plastic toys, nappies, and tons of wet wipes, leaving workers frustrated as they are faced with months of cleaning up the mess. According to Sydney Water, around six dry tonnes of wipes are removed from the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant daily.

The wipes are particularly bad for sewerage systems as they join together and mix with cooled cooking oils and other greases to form "fatbergs" - a congealed giant mass of non-biodegradable matter which clogs pipes.
"It is extremely hard to remove because it is manually intense labour," Sydney Water's process control officer Luke Justice said.
"You can try and break the stuff off the line but it is physically hard in your hands.
"Each time you go in you see tonnes and tonnes of wet wipes, oils and fatty material blocking a sewer and cleaning it out is a massive undertaking."
[...]
The waste expert said while Sydney's problem is not as bad as Britain, about 500 tonnes of wet wipes have to be removed from the city's sewer network a year, and the problem is getting worse due to an increase in the use of wipes. The utility claims 75 per cent of blockages are caused by the cleaning product.
"I think people are starting to become more aware but they don’t understand the scale of the problem that we are beginning to see," Mr Justice said.

More details of this news over at The Sydney Morning Herald.

What are your thoughts on this one?

(Image Credit: South West Water via AP)


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"After a while" ... and probably a lot of money. Sewer systems aren't designed for wetwipes, so may need a complete re-build to make it become a minor maintenance task. Easier probably to just ban wetwipes. But people like their wetwipes, so banning "flushable" in advertising for products which should not be flushed because of their cost in sewer maintenance, and public awareness of the problems is the main goal.Draino doesn't work on wet wipes, and even if they did, there would need to be an awful lot of chemical added to the system, which would need to be treated. I assume sewer workers have tried options like pressure washers as I doubt most really want to be there working away at obstructions by hand.
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Fatbergs only seem like a huge problem, because they're new. After a while, strategies and equipment for dealing with them will be developed, and they'll be just another minor maintenance task.
How about a steady trickle of Draino to dissolve blockages before they grow large? How about a pressure washer to make short work of breaking them up once they've gotten out of control? Long-term, designing sewer systems with obstacles that will help to break up any obstructions before they grow large, may eliminate the maintenance issue entirely.
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