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15-ton ‘fatberg’ extracted from blocked London sewers

LONDON — It may look like an iceberg, but there’s nothing cool about it.

Utility company Thames Water says it has discovered what it calls the biggest “fatberg” ever recorded in Britain — a 15-ton blob of congealed fat and baby wipes lodged in a sewer drain.

That’s enough “wrongly flushed festering food fat mixed with wet wipes” to fill a double-decker bus such as the famous London Routemaster, the company said.

Thames Water deals with fatbergs all the time, thanks to the widespread use of household oil and food fat. But few reach the mammoth size of the one found under a road in the London suburb of Kingston.

But with 108,000 kilometers (67,000 miles) of sewer pipes to monitor, and fatbergs forming around even a few wipes that catch on to a corner or a wall, Thames Water says it must be constantly vigilant.

This blockage — built up over an estimated six months — was discovered after residents in nearby apartment buildings were unable to flush their toilets.

Examination found that the mound of fat had reduced the 70-centimeter (28-inch) by 48-centimeter (19-inch) sewer to just 5 percent of its normal capacity. It damaged the sewers so badly that it will take six weeks to repair them.

The company said Tuesday it was sharing news of the massive lard lump in hopes that customers will think twice about what they dump down the drain. It also released video footage of the fatberg, filmed by a remote vehicle gliding through the sewer like an underground amusement park ride.

The company says untreated fatbergs cause flooding and backups.

“It’s very lucky we caught this one,” said Craig Rance, a spokesman for Thames Water.

Mind the fat.

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