BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s no getting around it. Fatbergs are not a pretty sight.
And now we all get a chance to look for ourselves, as Baltimore goes after the mass of grease and fat clogging a city sewer line near Lanvale and North Charles Streets.
A sewer bypass line has been set up above the street because of the blockage below. The space is tight to begin with, but big enough for a robotic TV camera to go into a two-foot-wide sewer pipe.
It doesn’t have to travel far to send back the first traces of the fatberg.
The further in you go, it begins coating the top and sides of the pipe.
“The blockage right now is pretty crazy,” says worker Logan Etzler, of TFE Resources. “It’s like 70 percent grease right now.”
“This is a big conglomeration of fats, oils and grease, which we call FOG,” says Jeff Raymond, of Baltimore City Department of Public Works.
Getting eyes on it is just the first step in getting rid of it.
Next, crews will use a “jet truck and special cutter heads to cut the grease and clear the blockage,” Etzler says.
Which all but fills the pipe in some places.
But fatbergs don’t just happen, they take decades to build.
“Anything you might cook, grease, butter, mayonnaise, anything your grandmother said don’t put down the drain,” says Pat Boyle with DPW.
It’s not just what goes down the kitchen sink, though.
A 130-ton fatberg in a London sewer contains a modern convenience that helps hold it together: sanitary wipes and other non-dissolvable items.
“We can’t treat our toilets like a trash can,” Boyle says.
Vib Patel, also with DPW, agrees. “Well, it could eventually block up the sewer line and back up into people’s basements or overflow into the stream,” Patel says.
It’s already spilled a million gallons of raw sewage into the Jones Falls.
Once broke up, the fatberg is vacuumed up. But it’s likely that there are more in other pipes.
And while the city can’t monitor everyone’s kitchen sinks, it does inspect restaurants for grease removal.