VR footage of Sidmouth fatberg among tools used in new pop up shop
PUBLISHED: 14:46 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:05 18 January 2019
An educational pop-up shop is using virtual footage of Sidmouth's sewers to help promote responsible waste disposal in the wake of the town's fatberg.
Sidmouth hit international headlines last week when it was revealed a 64-metre man-made monster of grease, oil and wipes had been building under The Esplanade.
South West Water has opened a shop in the former Mare and Foal shop until January 26 to answer questions and encourage residents to pledge to look at their disposal habits.
Andrew Roantree, South West Water’s director of waste water, showed the Herald around the shop before it opened on Tuesday.
Residents questioned why the fatberg had not been discovered sooner after the town’s last check was carried out two to three years ago, due to Sidmouth being a ‘low risk area’.
Mr Roantree said: “That routine check was quite significant event for that piece of sewer. It is not something that we do that frequently, partly because the historic risk of that site has been very low in terms of any operational problems. It did come as quite a large surprise for the guys who went inside.
“It’s quite a big exercise to try and get inside that sewer, it’s a very confined space to access.
“Anybody from Sidmouth who has been down there will see one triangular manhole cover in the middle of the road and that is it. That is the access into this pretty substantial underground system.
“Very often, some of those checks will be lifting the man hole cover and seeing what you can see from the surface or walking in the sewer.
“We were very keen that we didn’t want to trip up trade over Christmas and equally we need to get in and out before Easter ideally, so we avoid disrupting any trade in the town before the population starts to build for the summer.”
Work is due to begin on February 4 and is scheduled for eight weeks for the 10-man team to pick axe and jet away the fatberg.
The cost of the operation is £130,000 to clear but the company says customers will not take the hit.
The director said that due to the blockage being at the far end of The Esplanade, machinery and vehicles would only end up taking over the turning circle.
Fencing will be place with heavy machinery and tankers coming and going through the town during the day.
The clean-up team will be using breathing apparatus along with shovels and pickaxes to hack away at the discarded waste.
They will also be using special sewage jetting equipment which blasts high powered water at the fatberg so that pieces can be sucked up by a machine.
The cleared fat will then be transported to a water treatment site where it will be converted into green energy.
Mr Roantree said: “One challenge will be odour, we do not know at the present moment what it will be like when we start breaking it up. There is a risk it could be quite odorous, that will largely be contained down in the sewer. It’s only point of exit is that one manhole cover. So there isn’t a huge space for that odour and we don’t know precisely until we start breaking it up quite what is going to give out.
“One dimension is the weather because this sewer is live, we cannot stop the flow.”
The shop will be open six days a week, with dedicated Love Your Loo advisors available to explain the operation going forward.
Visitors will be able to make pledges to show what they will look to do differently or pick up a gunk pot to collect up fats, oils and greases from going down the sink.
South West Water will be talking about ThinkSink and Love Your Loo campaigns - which educates customers on the importance of only flushing the 3Ps.
A pair of virtual reality goggles will transport the watcher down the sewers to see footage from the team who discovered the fatberg.
Young visitors will be able to test their knowledge by taking part in a challenge to hunt for the unflushable items from a ball pit and will see their efforts recorded on a score board.
Residents dropping by the shop said they found it informative and called for more to be done from companies to better label items as non-flushable.
One resident said: “It’s very informative, the general public do not understand what it means by flushable. It’s education really.
“Some items should put that they are not flushable on their packet.
Another resident said she collected fats and would take them to the tip but asked what provisions there were if people could not drive.
The pop-up centre will be open six-days-a-week, Monday to Friday 10am to 3pm and 3.30pm on Saturday and will run until January 26.