The hidden economic drain: Unmasking the costs of fatbergs in the UK

The UK is known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and iconic landmarks. Yet, lurking beneath its picturesque cities is a growing problem causing a significant financial burden – the menace of fatbergs. These monstrous lumps of fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and other non-degradable waste materials, clog the country’s sewer systems, leading to costly clean-up operations and infrastructure damage. This blog post explores the economic implications of dealing with this hidden threa and how to undertake wastewater treatment.

How are fatbergs formed?

Fatbergs are formed when fats, oils, and grease (FOGs) are flushed down sinks and drains. These substances are not easily broken down and can accumulate in the sewer system over time. As these substances solidify, they form a solid mass that can block wastewater flow. In some cases, fatbergs can be as large as a bus and weigh several tonnes.

Fatbergs are a growing problem in the UK, and they are becoming more common in urban areas because they have a higher concentration of restaurants and food establishments that produce large amounts of waste.

The impact of fatbergs on the environment

When fatbergs block wastewater flow, it can overflow into rivers and other waterways and cause pollution and harm wildlife. In addition, fatbergs can cause sewage backups in homes and businesses, which can be costly to clean up.

They can also have an impact on the sewer system itself. When fatbergs form, they cause blockages in the pipes, leading to sewage backups and overflows. This is particularly problematic when the sewer system is already stressed during heavy rains, and that is where we need wastewater treatment.

Fatberg statistics in London and other cities in the UK

Fatbergs are particularly common in London. In fact, in 2017, a 130-tonne fatberg was discovered in the sewer system in Whitechapel. This fatberg was one of the largest ever discovered in the UK and took several weeks to remove.

Since then, several other large fatbergs have been discovered in London, including a 40-tonne fatberg in Kingston and a 50-tonne fatberg in Greenwich. Fatbergs have also been discovered in other cities in the UK, including Manchester and Birmingham.

The financial repercussions of fatbergs

Dealing with them comes with a hefty price tag. In some cases, removing a single fatberg can cost millions of pounds. This is because hardened FOGs are very difficult to remove, and special equipment is needed to break them up and remove them from the sewer system.

Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and wastewater services company, spends approximately £1 million a month to clear blockages, many of which are caused by fatbergs. In 2018, the cost of removing a single fatberg from the sewers of Sidmouth, Devon, was over £100,000.

Maintenance costs are just the tip of the iceberg. Fatbergs can lead to sewer overflows and back-ups, causing property and environmental damage and further financial implications. When you consider these costs on a national scale, it is evident that the economic burden of fatbergs is in the hundreds of millions, and that is why fatberg removal is important!

The penalties

As a consequence of these issues, the UK has seen an increase in the enforcement of penalties for improper disposal of FOGs by businesses. Companies are now held responsible for ensuring their waste is disposed of correctly, and non-compliance can result in hefty fines.

In 2013, a food company was fined £15,000 after their incorrect FOG disposal methods led to a fatberg that blocked a major sewer in London. Additionally, in 2019, a restaurant in Esher was fined over £4,000 for repeated FOG disposal offences.

The ripple effect

The economic costs of dealing with fatbergs also ripple effects on society. For instance, water companies must redirect funds from other critical areas, like infrastructure improvements or customer rate reductions, to manage fatberg-related issues. Moreover, property damage caused by sewer overflows can lead to insurance rate hikes, indirectly affecting the public.

Techniques for fat, oil, and grease removal from wastewater

One common technique is high-pressure water jets to break up the fatberg and flush it out of the sewer system. Another technique is to use special cutting equipment to break up the fatberg into smaller pieces that can be removed more easily.

In some cases, it may be necessary to use excavation equipment to remove the fatberg. This is particularly true for larger fatbergs that cannot be removed using other techniques. Excavation can be expensive, but is sometimes the only option to prevent further damage to sewers.

The role of government and businesses in tackling the fatberg problem

Governments can play a role in regulating the disposal of FOGs and enforcing regulations. They can also provide funding for research into new fatberg removal techniques and the construction of new sewer infrastructure.

On the other hand, businesses can implement best practices for waste disposal and invest in grease trap cleaning and maintenance. In addition, they can work with local governments and community organisations to raise awareness about the importance of preventing fatbergs.

What is better than grease traps? BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG.

This BiOWiSH® solution is a powerful, eco-friendly wastewater treatment remedy that eliminates FOGs and maintains pipeline cleanliness. Tailored specifically for high-FOG wastewater environments exceeding 100 mg/L, the consistent application of BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG enhances the efficiency of various treatment systems, such as grease traps, oil-water separators, and dissolved air flotation units.

biowish aquafog updated package 1 kg

The future outlook

The fatberg problem is not going away anytime soon, especially with the increase in disposable consumer products. However, through public awareness campaigns about proper waste disposal, stricter regulations, and innovative solutions such as BiOWiSH® ‘s fatberg-dissolving technologies, there is hope for reducing the economic drain caused by these sewer monsters.

In conclusion, fatbergs are a hidden but significant economic burden. They not only cause direct costs related to removal and damage repair but also result in penalties, increased insurance rates, and a reallocation of resources from other crucial areas.

It is essential for the UK and the world to recognise and address this unseen issue to maintain the integrity of our sewage systems and public finances. Embrace sustainable FOG removal with our assistance as we proudly serve as the exclusive BiOWiSH® partner in the UK. Contact us.

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