Major operation to breakdown giant fatberg blocking sewers in central Belfast


A major operation is set to get under way to breakdown a giant fatberg blocking sewers in central Belfast.

The berg is blocking pipes in Waring Street on the edge of Belfast bustling Cathedral Quarter and according to well placed sources has reduced sewage pipes to 20pc capacity.

The blockage is a build up of fats, oil and grease which when cooled congeal into a giant blockage which then produces a huge build up of other waste unable to flow past it.

The main culprits are people pouring hot cooking fat and grease down the drain, as soon as it hits cold water it solidifies and jams the pipes.

NI Water has confirmed it is ‘dealing with a sewer network issue in Waring Street.’ A spokesperson said the problem will require “significant maintenance work in the coming days.”

“The issues at Waring Street were found to be caused by inappropriate items flushed down the sewer and a build-up of fat, oil and grease. It is a timely reminder that everyone can help prevent the risk of out of sewer flooding and blockages occurring, by only flushing the three Ps - paper, poo and pee - everything else needs to be binned.

“NI Water would like to take this opportunity to appeal to businesses in the area to be mindful of the careful disposal of fats, oils and grease (FOG). FOG can quickly harden when cooled down in the wastewater system. This hardened fat causes blockages to kitchen drainage and downstream sewers leading to internal and external sewer flooding and odour issues.”

In the last ten years NI Water has spent over £1.5 billion investing in water and wastewater infrastructure.

“No amount of investment will completely stop blocked pipes caused by FOG or other inappropriate items in the sewer system, but we can all play our part by only flushing the three Ps. NI Water would like to thank customers for their patience while this work is ongoing.”

Fatbergs have becoming an increasingly common and costly problem in cities particularly in districts thick with pubs and restaurants and fast food outlets.

In 2017 contractors had to move a massive fatberg under Belfast’s Dublin Road. It took 10 days to clear the blockage. On that occasion NI Water removed a “couple of hundred tons” of waste such was the scale of the problem. Crews worked tirelessly on removing the ‘fatberg’ armed only with pick axes and shovels.

“It's back breaking work,” said a source. “And it will be same in Waring Street, and the pity is it is preventable, people take the water and sewage system for granted they just swill everything down the sink and then they’re shocked when the system can’t handle it.”

So-called ‘fatbergs’ are becoming increasingly common in urban areas, usually in bigger cities, and can turn even the most hardened stomach. The past decade has seen the problem exacerbated by people discarding nappies, baby wipes, condoms, sanitary products, which then join fats, grease and oils to form a disgusting coagulation that blocks water systems.

Irish Water said an October fatberg in Cork was caused by a build-up of fats, oils and greases.

Running a hot water tap and using washing up liquid is not the solution as grease and hot water eventually cool down in pipes and can cause blockages homes, businesses and the sewer network.

What is thought to be the largest ever fatberg was discovered in Liverpool in 2019, weighing 400 tonnes and measuring around 250 metres, or longer than a passenger airplane. The congealed mess was so bad that engineers had to hack at it using pickaxes, and it took around six weeks to break it up.

Source – The Irish Independent