Fatbergs: Beyond-Filthy Photos Of Aussie Sewage Blockages Made By Wet Wipes And Oil

26/02/2016 2:45 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Sydney Water

It's hard to look at these filthy photos of Australian sewage blockages made from flushed wet wipes and oil, but spare a thought for the poor workers who have to remove them -- often by hand.

It's no surprise that they're lobbying Australians to stop flushing wet wipes, and for companies to stop advertising them as 'flushable'.

They're not.

Seriously, check out these photos showing the catastrophic blockages created by wet wipes.

flushable wipes sydney water

Sydney Water collecting wet wipe waste in a treatment facility.

#WetWipesWednesday Wet wipes are not so 'flushable'. Learn more here: http://ow.ly/Y9tJL #KeepWipesOutofPipes

Posted by Sydney Water on Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sydney Water spokesman Keiran Smith said flushed wet wipes cost $8 million to remove every year and caused 75 percent of all blockages.

"This figure of $8 million is growing," Smith told HuffPost Australia. "This doesn’t include the cost for customers who have the unfortunate experience of flushed wet wipes causing a blockage in their own wastewater pipes.

"A blockage at a customer’s home could cost from several hundred dollars to a $1000 to fix in plumbing bills.

"We’ve even heard customer stories of bills of up to $16,000 to clear wet wipe blockages."

Then there's the notorious 'fatberg'. Smith said these ungodly drain-blocking amalgamations were big trouble for pipes, but also the environment.

fat drain clogged

Examples of fat clogging drains in Canberra (above) and the Hunger region (below).


"Wet wipes may flush and clear your toilet bowl, however they can combine with fats and oils and other things that shouldn’t be flushed into big, congealed clumps -- or ‘fatbergs’ -- in the sewer," Smith said.

"These ‘fatbergs’ can then cause blockages which lead to overflows into the environment, such as local creeks and rivers, and also into customer’s own homes."

wipes in a mangrove flush

He said they often had to be cleaned by hand.

"It's hazardous work for our maintenance crews and often needs to be cleared manually, the wipes tangle on our equipment," Smith said.

In consumer watchdog Choice's 2015 Shonky Awards, Kleenex was given a salubrious gong for branding wet wipes 'flushable'. The company, however, provided a statement saying the wipes "are flushable due to technology that allows them to lose strength and break up when moving through the sewerage system after flushing".

Currently, there's nothing to stop a product from being labeled 'flushable' in Australia.

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