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'Magic potion' helping Severn Trent tackle fatbergs

Severn Trent has announced that it is seeing promising results from trials of a 'magic potion' to tackle the build-up of fat, oil and grease (FOG) in the sewer network.

A fatberg pulled from Severn Trent's sewers.A fatberg pulled from Severn Trent's sewers.

The company, which tackles around 50,000 sewer blockages every year, is not identifying the product in question at this stage but said it had been used to clean oil spills in the ocean.

It works to break down and create channels through fat to help prevent the formation of fatbergs.

Celia Jackson, from Severn Trent's innovation team, said: “Every year we have to deal with flooding due to blocked sewers, and if you have a sewer flood into your home, it really is one of the worst things that can happen. We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to solve problems, and dealing with fat is definitely a problem we need to solve.

“Cleaning fat, oil and grease from the sewers is a costly operation, and we’re constantly exploring cost-effective solutions to keep our sewers flowing freely. 

"Severn Trent has been trialling a 'magic potion' – the first of its kind in the UK – to see if it can help tackle the issue. It’s a product that has been used successfully in the past to clean up major oil spills in the ocean. It works by breaking down the fats and helps to stop them forming solid 'fatbergs'.

“We’ve been running trials at a number of our sites – all with different and challenging issues – with promising results. In some instances the 'magic potion' has ‘eaten’ a channel through the fat, helping the sewers to flow freely again. 

"At some pumping station trial sites we observed reduced build-up of fat which led to more efficient pumping. This has reduced the need for manual intervention and maintenance, which will obviously save time and money, and also help our assets to last longer.

“We’re obviously going to continue the trial, to explore what else the 'magic potion' can do for us."

Jackson stressed that the product would not completely counter the effects of FOG in the sewer network.

"It’s a fantastically innovative way to help avoid the build-up of fat in our sewer system, but we don’t want people to think it will solve all of the issues," she said. "We’d still like to remind our customers that fats, oils and greases should never be flushed down the sink or toilet in the first place, but until everyone disposes of those fats properly, we’ll be using our 'magic potion' to help tackle the issue.”

Forensic analysis for a recent Channel 4 programme showed fatbergs can harbour antibiotic-resistant bacteria and parasite eggs.

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Innovation , Sewer Networks
Tags: Fats Oils and Grease , fatberg , sewers , Severn Trent Water

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