One tonne fatberg

Some retailers along Regent Street in London’s West End had reported drain problems, prompting Thames Water to send an emergency team from Lanes Utilities, part of Lanes Group, to investigate. They found that a block of fat and other debris weighing more than a tonne had built up at a critical point in the sewer that runs under Regent Street. This then caused wastewater to back up into some connecting drains.

In a three-hour operation, the team removed the fatberg and cleared the sewer, allowing it to run freely again, which cured drainage problems experienced by the retail businesses above.

Field Manager Craig May, who led Lanes Utilities’ fatberg-busting team, said: “This was a relatively small fatberg by the stands of some that we’ve discovered. But it was causing a nuisance, and had to be removed. We had to dig it out with shovels, and take the debris back to the manhole, where some of it could be vacuumed up to the surface using one of our jet vacuumation tankers. Larger lumps were lifted out in buckets.”

As Thames Water’s sole wastewater maintenance contractor, Lanes Utilities is regularly tasked with tackling fatbergs where, in London, specimens have been found weighing more than 15 tonnes and more than 100 metres in length.

Fatbergs are at the extreme end of a constant battle to keep drains and sewers running freely, with Lanes Group engineers clearing more than 300,000 blocked pipes for Thames Water every year.