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Devon fatberg twice the size of a blue whale finally cleared from sewer

A monstrous fatberg twice the size of a blue whale has finally been removed from underneath a seaside town in Devon.

The 64-metre beast, made up of hardened fat, oil and wet wipes, was discovered by South West Water under the Esplanade in Sidmouth just before Christmas.

This fatberg is thought to be the biggest found so close to the sea and is certainly the largest Devon or Cornwall has ever seen.

Work to remove the fatberg bit by bit started in February and spanned over eight weeks, despite challenging conditions.

It took nearly eight weeks to clear it out. Credit: South West Water/PA

Workers had to be hauled underground through a manhole and needed to wear full breathing apparatus at the start because of dangerous gases inside the sewer.

At times, water levels made it too treacherous to enter and they had to rely on their own hands and specialist jetting equipment to break up the fatberg before it was loaded on to tankers.

Exactly how big was the fatberg?

In total, 36 tanker loads – each 3,000 gallons – of debris have been excavated and removed by a dedicated team of seven confined-space specialists.

It measured 64 metres long.

The length of a blue whale – the biggest animal known in history – has never recorded at more than 34 metres.

The fatberg was taken to a local sewage treatment works where it was fed into the anaerobic digester and produced energy to power the plant.

The giant fatberg was found blocking a sewer in a Devon seaside town. Credit: South West Water

‘The largest in our history’

Andrew Roantree, South West Water’s director of wastewater, said: “The Sidmouth fatberg is the largest discovered in our service history, and illustrates how this key environmental issue is not just facing the UK’s biggest cities but our coastal towns as well.

“The fatberg has made headlines all over the world, and we really hope that this will help everyone to remember to only flush the three Ps –pee, paper and poo – down the loo and to dispose of fat, oil and grease in the bin not down the sink.”

He added: “Although not on the same scale as the Sidmouth fatberg, we deal with around 8,500 blocked sewers every year, which costs about £4.5 million to clear and adds to bills.

“Most of these blockages are caused by people inappropriately flushing baby wipes, hygiene wipes, cleaning wipes, cleansing pads and sanitary products which do not break down in the same way as toilet paper and get glued together by fat, oil and grease poured down drains.

“Thankfully the Sidmouth fatberg has now gone but we’ll need the help of the people of Sidmouth to make sure it never returns.”