Fatbergs can happen in Sydney

Media release

10 January

Sydney residents are being reminded about the impact of ‘fatbergs’ following the shocking vision overnight of a 64 metre-long fatberg found in a UK sewer. Watch the footage Fatbergs can cost millions to remove each year.

Fatbergs are formed when wet wipes flushed down the toilet congeal with fats, oils and grease poured down the kitchen sink to form a rock-hard mass in the wastewater network.

“Fatbergs are a problem in Sydney, but they certainly haven’t been of the size of the ones discovered in the UK”, said Peter Hadfield at Sydney Water.

“Sydney Water spends millions of dollars every year, physically removing wet wipes and other materials from our wastewater network and the wastewater treatment process removes significant amounts of fats, oils and grease. This is a problem for all utilities across Australia and globally."

Sydney Water’s ‘ Clean up not down’ campaign stresses that we should always use a rubbish bin to dispose of wipes or any other bathroom products rather than flushing them down the toilet. Similarly, don’t dispose of fats, oils and greases or any other food scraps and waste down the sink - use your rubbish bin.

Most times, excess fats can be mopped up with a paper towel and put in the bin. Wet wipes have been a major contributor to blockages to sewage pipes in high-rise apartment buildings, requiring significant plumbing bills to rectify the problems caused.

Individual house owners are also being hit with expensive plumbing bills. One Sydney resident had a plumbing bill of $16,000 to repair a problem caused by flushing wet wipes.

While wipes might look like toilet paper, they are made from a very tough material which does not break down in water in the same manner as toilet paper. And it’s not just wet wipes that should not be flushed down the toilet.

People would be very surprised to know that facial tissues, although they are made from fine materials, do not break down and should not be flushed.

Similarly, products like make-up wipes, baby wipes, cleaning wipes, nappies, female sanitary products, condoms, cigarette butts, cotton buds, dental floss, hair and unwanted medication should never be flushed down the toilet, but should be placed in the bin.

Hadfield added, “remember the three Ps – the only things that you should flush down your toilet are pee, poo and (toilet) paper!”