LIFE

Something’s Lurking In The Michigan Sewers, And It’s Not A Murderous Demon Clown

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Here’s a super-gross word to add to your vocabulary: fatberg.

A fatberg is a solid lump in a sewer system, formed by grease, oils, and nonbiodegradable waste.

Basically, it’s an iceberg made of fat and wet wipes.

These lumps build up in tunnels and pipes over time, and they can grow astoundingly huge. One fatberg in Macomb County, Michigan, has reached the size of a blue whale, baffling the officials who recently discovered it. The fatberg is 100 feet long and 6 feet tall.

Fatbergs pose a huge problem for public sewer systems. They block the flow of waste, causing flooding and other issues.

Fatbergs have also been put to good use, however.

One fatberg in the London sewer system, weighing 130 tons and measuring 820 feet, was successfully converted into biodiesel.

But it’s not easy to remove a fatberg — particularly once it is the size of the largest animal that has ever existed! Fatberg removal is extremely costly and labor-intensive.

“It’s basically like trying to break up concrete,” said Matt Rimmer, the head of waste networks at Thames Water Utilities.

With that in mind, it’s better to avoid the problem altogether, officials say. To prevent fatbergs, never throw leftover grease, oil, baby wipes, wet wipes, or other solids down the drain. Instead, wait until the oil cools, then pour it into a container and chuck it into the trash.

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