A nauseating stalactite of sewage has been found beneath the streets of East London.
The “fatberg,” as the water company officials call it, is composed of diapers, wet wipes, fats, and oils that have congealed into a giant, repulsive mass. Officials compared the task of clearing it out of the Victorian-era sewer that it blocked—a campaign that they expect to take three weeks—to breaking up a giant slab of concrete.
The mass is more than 800 feet of cooking fats, sanitary products, diapers, and condoms, weighing in at roughly 145 tons. (That’s roughly the weight of 22 African elephants or 70 cars.) This kind of fatberg forms, according to a statement put out by the water company officials, through the repetition of everyday actions like flushing wipes and sanitary products or pouring fats and oils down the drain.
This isn’t the first fatberg discovered in London. In 2013, a “bus-sized” fatberg was found after some residents found their toilets wouldn’t flush. Two years later, an 11-ton fatberg broke a sewer pipe. The New York Times reported the city spent $4.6 million on the problem in one year.
But it’s not just a London problem. Fatbergs have been reported in cities around the—including the U.S.—in smaller sizes. New York City, according to a city report, spent $18 million fighting five years of grease-related sewage backups, the most common type of blockage.
The company responsible for clearing this London fatberg will have to use eight people, manning high-powered hoses, to break up the mass, according to the statement. They’ll then cart away the pieces in a tank truck.