Scientists reveal the secrets of Sidmouth's famous fatberg

PUBLISHED: 18:00 27 September 2019

Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC

Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC

Archant

False teeth, tampons, wet wipes and incontinence pad liners were just some of the discoveries when scientists studied the contents of the Sidmouth fatberg.

Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC

The 64-metre pile of hardened fat, oils and wet wipes was discovered when South West Water workers were carrying out routine checks under The Esplanade at the end of 2018.

News of the fatberg, thought to be one of the largest discovered that close to the sea, was reported worldwide.

It was longer than six double decker buses and took eight weeks to remove 36 tanker loads.

The BBC's Inside Out South West featured the fatberg in its broadcast on September 23.

Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC

On the show, Professor John Love and Nicky Cunningham, of the University of Exeter delved into a 5.5 kilo sample.

Ms Cunningham said: "We have found in the region on 15 wet wipes, or things we think are wet wipes. Some of these longer items, we think that they are actually the liners of incontinence pads, it would take quite a lot of persistence to get an incontinence pad down the toilet."

She added: "We weren't expecting to find the false teeth at all. I can't imagine the circumstances in which they found themselves in the sewer."

In the programme, BBC presenter Jemma Woodman speaks about the wet wipe industry.

Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC Screen shots from the BBC programme Inside Out South West which featured Sidmouth's fatberg. Picture BBC

She said: "A spokesman for the wet wipe industry told us producers had worked with the water industry and found no evidence that flushable wipes blocked sewers, and if truth be told we can't prove if the wipes labelled as 'flushable' were part of the problem in Sidmouth."

In the programme the presenter visits WRC - one of the world's leading environmental consultancy agencies.

Andy Drinkwater, of WRC, has been studying sewer blockages for decades and showed the results of his own experiment testing how different wipes break down.

Speaking of Sidmouth's fatberg, he said: "We found a lot of wipes which reflected the older population in Sidmouth. A lot of adult incontinence wipes, a lot of large wipes that looked like they came off a roll which had probably been used in an adult care setting."

Visit bbc.co.uk/iplayer to watch the full programme.

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