Thames Water has installed a “special edition” manhole cover to mark the first anniversary of the discovery of the 130-tonne Whitechapel fatberg.
The 250-metre long congealed mass of fat, oil, grease, nappies, wet wipes and other sanitary products blocked an east London sewer and took 13-weeks to remove.
Sewer teams used high powered jets and brute force to clear the “monster” blockage, which hit headlines around the world after it was discovered in September 2017.
The manhole cover commemorates Thames Water’s “victory” over the infamous fatberg. Thames Water said it has since tripled its above ground “fatberg-fighting” team to work with restaurants and takeaways to trap fat in kitchens.
Research by the company suggests two-thirds of Londoners are now aware of fatbergs.
Alex Saunders, Thames Water waste network manager, said: “The Whitechapel fatberg revolted and fascinated everyone, and got people everywhere talking about what happens next to their waste.
“It was a vivid image of what happens if people flush wet wipes down the toilet or pour fat down the sink, and the difficult and challenging job our teams do every day hidden beneath our feet. It certainly showed that out of sight isn’t gone forever – and now their heroic work in awful conditions will be remembered with this new commemorative manhole cover.”
The fatberg sparked months of media coverage and hit headlines in more than 156 countries, including 550 million impressions on Twitter.
It featured prominently on national radio shows, including Radio 1’s Greg James Show live from inside a sewer, and Channel 4’s “Fatberg Autopsy” documentary has been watched by more than a million people.
Every hour Thames Water clears five blockages from its sewer network, which can cause pollution to the environment or customer’s homes. The blockages are caused mainly by flushed wipes at a cost of around £12 million every year.
Thames Water is continuing to educate customers with its “Bin it – don’t block it” campaign, which shows the difference between flushing a wet wipe and toilet paper.
The fatberg’s moment in the spotlight does not look to be coming to an end any time soon as a fatberg musical is currently being scripted.
Meanwhile the Museum of London exhibition attracted thousands of visitors, with a chunk now on constant “FatCam” display.
Vyki Sparkes, curator at the museum, said: “The samples of the Whitechapel fatberg have proven to be very powerful, provoking strong feelings of fascination and disgust while encouraging people to reflect on a serious challenge facing the city.
“By adding these samples to our permanent collections we’re preserving material evidence of how we live now, and, as we change our habits and attitudes, fatbergs could well become history.”
Speaking at Utility Week’s Congress event in Birmingham last year Thames Water chief executive Steve Robertson explained that digitisation can help water companies deliver important messages to a greater number of customers than they have been able to do in the past.
He described how the fatberg became a media sensation which enabled the company to highlight the water sector’s campaign to ensure no unwanted products get flushed away.
Thames Water’s recently published five-year business plan covering 2020-25 will deliver an 18 per cent reduction in pollution incidents as part of an £11.7 billion investment programme.
It includes £2.1 billion to boost resilience and reduce leakage by 15 per cent from its network of water pipes.