Scientists have found cooking fats and hygiene products bore much of the responsibility for a giant ‘fatberg’ found under the coastal town of Sidmouth.
The 64-metre fatberg – the length of six London buses end to end – was discovered in the town’s sewer system just before Christmas last year and took eight weeks to remove.
Scientists at the University of Exeter have carried out an autopsy of the blockage and found large quantities of cooking fats, wet wipes, toilet tissues and laundry.
They also discovered it contained no levels of toxic chemicals, meaning that beyond blocking pipes the fatberg did not pose a biological risk to the environment or human health.
The fatberg took seven people eight weeks to remove.
Synthetic biology expert Professor John Love said he had held fears the fatberg would contain microplastic beads and chemicals found in contraceptives, but this was not the case.
“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,” he said.
Andrew Roantree from South West Water said the fatberg was the largest found in the company’s history.
“The results confirm our suspicions, that fat and non-flushable products such as wipes are the main culprits,” she said.
“We will be using these results to help us education, inform and change the behaviours of people in terms of what they are putting down the toilet and sink.”