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Revealed: Main culprits that made up monster fatberg

Revealed: Main culprits that made up monster fatberg

Published by Emma Carton at 8:53am 4th October 2019. (Updated at 1:05pm 4th October 2019)

Cooking fats and hygiene products played a pivotal role in the formation of the giant fatberg found in the sewers in Devon.

The 64m monster, greater in length than the Tower of Pisa, was discovered under The Esplanade in Sidmouth last year.

A team of scientists from the University of Exeter were asked to carry out an extensive "autopsy" to try to solve the mystery.

They were given four samples, each weighing around 10kg, after South West Water workers spent eight weeks removing it.

In total, 36 tanker loads of debris, each 3,000 gallons, were excavated and removed by a dedicated team of seven specialists.

What made up the fatberg?

The fatberg was taken to a local sewage treatment works where it was fed into the anaerobic digester and produced energy to power the plant.

The university team found that the samples they received were mostly made of animal fats - consistent with domestic food preparation.

Those were combined with household hygiene products such as wet wipes and sanitary products.

Scientists also found natural and artificial fibres from toilet tissues and laundry, bones and even false teeth!

They also discovered the fatberg contained no detectable levels of toxic chemicals.

That means its presence in the sewer did not pose a chemical or biological risk to the environment or human health.

"Analysing the fatberg samples in such a short timeframe was an exciting challenge requiring the expertise from a number of specialised scientists.

"We worried that the fatberg might concentrate fat-soluble chemicals such as those found in contraceptives, contain now-banned microplastic beads from cosmetics and be rich in potentially pathogenic microbes, but we found no trace of these possible dangers.

"We were all rather surprised to find that this Sidmouth fatberg was simply a lump of fat aggregated with wet wipes, sanitary towels and other household products that really should be put in the bin and not down the toilet.

"The microfibres we did find probably came from toilet tissue and laundry, and the bacteria were those we would normally associate with a sewer".

Professor John Love

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