“Fatbergs” build up when foreign objects flushed down the toilet bind together, and during the months the condition was locked down, there was a noticeable spike in drain obstructions.
“Things like wet wipes, diapers, hygiene products, toys, money, even a bed sheet, people’s cell phones, sometimes the weird engagement ring – you know, all of that stuff. [that] shouldn’t go to the toilet, ”said Clare Lugar of the Water Corporation.
The dirty material – mixed with oils, grease, and grease that wash away the sink – results in fatty lumps of harsh, pungent rawness that block pipes and trigger sewage spills.
“Fatbergs are really a problem for us because they clog our pumps,” Ms. Lugar said.
“If these pumps can’t run, it means sewage is starting to flow back up through the system – and no one wants it because it can overflow.”
Ms Lugar said the Water Corporation had to use cranes to dislodge the mammoth fatbergs and transport them to landfills.
“The other word we use for a fatberg is actually a pipe freak and it’s a freak,” she says.
“I’ve seen it in other sanitation systems around the world as big as a bus.
Ms Lugar kindly described the smell of fatbergs as “recognizable”.
“It can linger in your nostrils for a few days. It’s not pleasant, she said.
A spike in flushables coincides with an increase in panic-buying toilet paper
While the Christmas holiday period was typically the busiest time for pipe cleaning crews, the Water Corporation noted peaks in blockages between February and May as WA was on lockdown.
The theory of work is that people working from home – and potentially panicking buying sanitary products – could have contributed to the spikes.
“We’ve definitely noticed that during that time … we’ve seen this spike in blockages caused by things like wet wipes, sanitary products and things like that thrown down the toilet,” Ms. Lugar said.
“At work, people may have put these items in a special bin – usually at the workplace. [there are] bins to put those things in there and they get picked up and thrown away.
“I think with the folks back home, maybe they didn’t know what to do and probably put more of these things in the toilet.”
By the end of the year, the Water Company had responded to nearly 3,000 wastewater blockages on its network.
It was slightly higher than the previous two years.
The number of blockages caused by non-disposables between February and May 2020 was almost double the number in the same period in 2018.
The Water Corporation responded by speeding up a process called “de-ragging,” manually removing non-disposable items from sewage pump stations, and causing stinky fatbergs.
The port town of Fremantle was Perth’s worst suburb for blockages caused by rags such as wet wipes, easily beating Nedlands, Cottesloe and Armadale, who also completed the top 10.
Victoria Park, Mosman Park, Armadale, and Mount Lawley were the top four suburbs where blockages were caused by fats, oils, and grease.
‘Think before you sink’
Ms Lugar urged people to ‘think before you sink’ and use their trash cans rather than scraping oils, grease and food scraps down the sink.
Here are some simple tips to remember that can save the sewer system:
- Transfer the cooking fats and oils to an airtight container. Once cooled and solidified, place the container in the trash
- Place a trash can in your bathroom to prevent people from throwing diapers, sanitary ware, and other materials down the toilet.
- Pour boiling water into the sink to try to dissolve the cooking fat. This will only melt the oil, which will eventually cool and solidify in the pipes.
- Rinse off wet wipes, facial tissues, paper towels, cotton swabs, sanitary products or diapers. Please throw these products in the trash.
What about disposable wipes?
Wet wipes may say ‘disposable’ on the label, but Ms Lugar said that was misleading.
“Even though that indicates that they can be flushed down the toilet, they’re probably not going to break down in the wastewater treatment system, and they’re going to cause us a huge problem,” she said. declared.
“Put them in the trash instead of rinsing them.”
She said water authorities across the country were pressuring manufacturers to change the labeling.
“Only paper, pee and poo in the toilet – everything else has to go in a trash can.”