Fatberg: A sewer-clogging lump of congealed cooking fat mixed with wet wipes and other products. Coined from fat and the suffix of iceberg.
Last week workers cleared a “bus-sized” fatberg from the London sewer system, averting a huge sewage overflow in the suburb of Kingston.
“Fatberg ahead!”: The Guardian, August 6, 2013. Fifteen tonnes (metric tons) is the equivalent of nearly 17 tons (34,000 pounds). British English prefers sewerage for “sewage system” and sewage for the waste itself.
“Blimey, it’s slimy”: Grist.org, August 7, 2013.
From the Grist article:
What do you call a festering schoolbus-sized glob of lard? If you answered ‘fatberg,’ you’d fit right in at the U.K.’s largest water company. Thames Water uses the silly term to describe a serious lump of trouble that was, until recently, lurking in the London sewer system.
The 33,000-pound ’berg came from modest beginnings: flushed wet wipes and food waste created from Brits pouring grease and fatty foods down the drain.
How bad are fatbergs? Very bad, according to Atlantic Cities:
“A fatberg,” says Simon Evans, media relations manager at Thames Water, “is a vile, festering, steaming collection of fat and wet wipes.” Fatberg creation is a vicious cycle, according to Evans, who coined the term. “Fat clings to wipes, wipes cling to the fat,” he explains. “They are the catalysts in this horrible fatberg game.”
Fatbergs have become a growing problem (in every sense) in London in part because many residents have switched from toilet paper, which is engineered to break down in sewer systems, to wet wipes, which aren’t. Wet-wipe sales in the UK have been rising by double-digit percentages each year, the National Geographic reports:
The trend hasn’t quite caught on the U.S., but some corporations are trying to help it along: one out of every ten Americans adopting the practice would create a billion-dollar market… and a million dollar nightmare for sewer officials.
Earlier this year, Thames Water introduced a new slogan, “Bin it, don’t block it,” to prevent “sewer abuse”—putting anything other than human waste or toilet paper down drains. Thames Water clears about 55,000 sewer blockages each year.