Let’s play a game called Good Idea Bad Idea. Good idea: Flushing only biodegradable materials down the toilet. Bad idea: Pouring a metric tonne of concrete down a drain and into a Victorian-era sewer system.
London is currently dealing with the consequences of someone’s very bad idea near the Islington district. Thames Water, the city’s public water utility, reports that it is removing a mass of solidified concrete that’s over 100m long and weighs as much as a blue whale.
Thames Water also says that the “concreteberg” is the biggest solid mass of its kind the company has ever seen, which is saying something for London, a city famous for its enormous fatbergs.
“Normally blockages are caused by fat, oil and wet wipes building up in the sewer but unfortunately in this case it’s rock-hard concrete,” Alex Saunders, the operations manager for Thames Water, said in a statement. “It’s in there and set to the Victorian brickwork, so we need to chip away at it to get it removed.”
The concreteberg is blocking three sewers, and Thames Water expects to spend several hundred thousand pounds to clean up the mess. It will require up to two months of road closures and noise as workers use jackhammers and high-pressure hoses to break up the mass.
Authorities believe that the mess was caused by a construction company dumping “an industrial amount” of concrete down a drain. Which, as we’ve already pointed out, is a bad idea.
The situation does bring to mind London’s ongoing struggle with various types of ‘berg in its ageing sewer system. As Saunders points out, many of these are massive globs of fat and wet wipes that accumulate when people flush things down the toilet that should not be flushed.
A couple of years ago, Thames Water found an enormous fatberg in a 119cm-high sewer that stretched 250m long and weighed an estimated 130 metric tonnes. That one was ten times the size of the famous bus-sized fatberg found in London’s Kingston borough back in 2013.
All of the fatbergs are very expensive to remove and unspeakably disgusting to look at.
Concretebergs are arguably worse, at least in terms of removal. Saunders said that this “is not the first time” some idiot has poured wet concrete into the sewers, although it’s definitely the worst case. Thames Water has launched an investigation into the situation which, again, began with a very bad idea.