Oxford city centre traffic chaos after main sewer collapses under weight of fat, oil and grease

Fatburg in London Sewer system


The City of Oxford was plunged into traffic chaos earlier this month as a major sewer collapsed under the sheer weight of fat, oil and grease accumulations.

A Fatberg similar to the one pictured in London in August 2013 led to major traffic delays in the centre of Oxford in particular in the Hollybush Row area.

The mass of fat, oil and grease entered the drainage system from restaurants and other catering facilities where it solidifies creating a solid ‘iceberg’ like mass of fat.

Anthony Crawford, of Thames Water was reported on BBC news as saying “the sewers were not an abyss for household rubbish, Fat goes down the drain easily enough, but when it hits the cold sewers, it hardens into disgusting fatbergs that block pipes." He said the company spent £12m a year tackling blockages to pipes. (source )

So what is a ‘fatberg’?

Fat, oil and grease enters our drains through washing of pots and pans. New restaurants are required to have a grease management system (such as a grease trap) under building regulations but many older establishments do not have grease traps.

This means fat, oil and grease is allowed to enter the sewer system untreated. This accumulates in the sewer and where a number of catering premises discharge this can lead to a massive accumulation of fat known as a ‘Fatberg’.

To combat Fatbergs water utilities employ sewer flushers which are engineers who physically enter the sewer and clear minor accumulations before they grow to big leading to a massive and catastrophic blockage.

The Oxford Fatberg is not the first of this phenomenon, in August 2013 a blockage reported to be the size of a London bus and weighing 15 tonnes was discovered in South West London by Thames water.

So how can we stop it?

In recent years several companies have emerged who specialise in installing grease traps and grease management systems. These are not typical drain ‘un-blockers’ but engineers who understand how to correctly size and install a grease trap.

Edward Palin, Managing Director of Banbury based water treatment specialists Watling Hope has invited restaurant owners in Oxford to contact the company to arrange for a free survey to ensure they have effective grease management equipment in place.

Safe Contractor British Water

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