Lon­don sewer fat­berg on its way to mu­seum

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Pa­trick Green­field

Part of a 250-me­tre fat­berg cur­rently block­ing a stretch of Lon­don’s sewer net­work could go on dis­play to the pub­lic af­ter the Mu­seum of Lon­don ex­pressed an in­ter­est in ob­tain­ing a sec­tion of the 130-tonne lump.

The mu­seum, lo­cated in the City of Lon­don, has con­tacted Thames Wa­ter about ac­quir­ing part of the con­gealed block of wet wipes, nap­pies, fat and oil fol­low­ing its dis­cov­ery in a Vic­to­rian sewer in Whitechapel, east Lon­don.

En­gi­neers for Thames Wa­ter are us­ing shov­els and high-pow­ered jets to re­move the fat­berg, which was found dur­ing a rou­tine in­spec­tion ear­lier this month, and is one of the largest ever found in Lon­don’s sewer net­work.

Alex Werner, a cu­ra­tor at the mu­seum, said the fat­berg called “to at­ten­tion the way we live our lives in a mod­ern city,” and said the mu­seum had been in­ter­ested in ac­quir­ing a fat­berg af­ter sim­i­lar dis­cov­er­ies in Kingston and Le­ices­ter Square.

He said: “It speaks to the break­down in Lon­don’s in­fra­struc­ture as we tran­si­tion be­tween pe­ri­ods. The sewer dates back to the 19th cen­tury, and is strug­gling to cope with the num­ber of high-rise de­vel­op­ments and pop­u­la­tion in­creases. In 50 years time, maybe it will be looked on as a his­toric arte­fact, be­cause we’ll have solved this prob­lem.”

He added: “Our chal­lenge is to think of a way to make it pre­sentable to the pub­lic. We need to work out a way we can store it and dis­play it. It’s a bit like a spec­i­men – we need to find a kind of fluid to main­tain it for a long time. We have a bit of re­search yet to do.”

Werner, who vis­ited the site of the fat­berg yes­ter­day, said hid­ing it’s smell would be a chal­lenge. “It’s a hor­rid smell – fairly pun­gent. It’s the smell you’d ex­pect from the sewer. I’m back in my of­fice now and I can still smell it around my nose.” Thames Wa­ter spends around £1m a month clear­ing block­ages from its sew­ers.

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