Tips & Advice

Fatberg facts and how you can help to save our waterways

A ‘fatberg’ the length of two tennis courts was recently discovered lurking near a seaside sewer off Sidmouth in the UK, but the sinister mass of fat and wet wipes is just the tip of a world-wide problem. Closer to home, a fatberg found at the Shellharbour pumping station on NSW’s south coast reveals the potential for havoc in Australia’s sewage systems.

The image above is of a fatberg at the Shellharbour pumping station on NSW’s south coast illustrates how a blockage caused by non-biodegradable wet wipes can damage public sewage works.  (Image Credit –  Shellharbour wastewater pumping station removing wet wipes and other materials, Sydney Water).

Consisting of hardened fat, oil and wet wipes, the British fatberg found off Sidmouth, a genteel English seaside resort town in Devon, England, was  64 metre (210 ft). Their local water authority reported it was an eight week process to cut up the fatberg and remove it from the town.

In the South Coast region of New South Wales, local water authorities are also battling the fatberg phenomenon.

The ordinary wet wipe, especially the baby wipe, has emerged as a key culprit.

The Water Services Association of Australia estimates that large fatbergs caused by a combination of non-biodegradable wet wipes, congealed fat and tree roots are costing water utilities across Australia $15 million per year.

A wet wipe consists of moistened paper or plastic cloth, so does not break apart of dissolve in water as paper tissues do.

At Curran Plumbing specialised equipment fitted with fibre-optic cameras can go into drains and reveal to homeowners some of the problems created by wet-wipe blockages.

A Sydney Water survey of consumers in the greater Sydney area, “Wipes Disposal: Behavioural Change Study”  found one in four Illawarra residents flushed wet wipes down the toilet, which can clog up pipes and block toilets.

Wet wipes are constantly clogging up the sewerage systems. In New South Wales, the cost of removing 500 tonnes of wet wipes from the network costs Sydney Water on average $8 million per year.

A Choice magazine investigation into the problem reports, “growing maintenance costs will soon start coming out of our own pockets in the form of higher water bills.”

 

The main components of a fatberg

According to the Sydney Water website, the main culprits of a fatberg are:

  • wet wipes and bathroom products flushed down the toilet
  • cooking fats and food scraps ‘rinsed’ down the sink.

Oil and grease harden as they hit the cool water of wastewater pipes, and then combine with other waste like wet wipes to create ‘fatbergs’.

In winter when household pipes are colder, fat in drains congeals more quickly. Fat may also react with the pipe lining to ‘saponify’, with the oil converting into a solid, soap-like substance.

Restaurants, hotels and takeaway shops which don’t dispose of fats and oils properly, and those with faulty grease traps, have also contributed to the fatberg problem around the world.

Fatbergs are bad news for household drains

Down the pipe, a household fatberg that escapes into the sewers can join up with like-minded fatbergs to form monsters like the ones in Sidmouth and Shellharbour.

Wastewater backups resulting from the fatberg blockages mean that sewage could overflow into homes, backyards and waterways.

The issue affects everyone, including beach users.

Sydney Water has several wastewater treatment outlets located along NSW’s south coast including: Cronulla (discharging at Kurnell Peninsula), Bellambi (at Bellambi Point), Port Kembla (at Red Point)  and Shellharbour (off Barrack Point). The biggest of  Shoalhaven Water’s wastewater treatment outlets are: Nowra (discharged in the Shoalhaven River ), Ulladulla (off Racecourse Beach) and Berry (pasture irrigation).

Report fatberg sightings immediately

As the risk of sewage overflow from a fatberg is high and the public health implications are severe.

Call your plumber if you spot the symptoms of a fatberg in your household drains, including:

  • Bad odours
  • Drains or toilets not clearing quickly
  • Wastewater overflow
  • Gurgling noises in sanitary drains

Phone the water authority if you spot similar signs of a fatberg in a public area or sewage plant. In the Illawarra and Shoalhaven areas of New South Wales,

  • Sydney Water runs a hotline 13 20 90 for emergency and after hours reports of water leakage.
  • Shoalhaven Water runs a hotline (02) 4421 3100 for emergency and after-hours reports of water leakage.

 

STOP feeding the fatbergs!

While it may seem convenient to flush away unwanted items or trickle slops down the sink, this is the start of a fatberg problem that affects both your home and the wider community.

The advice from Shoalhaven Water is:

  • Only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Put other items in the garbage. Rubbish, children’s toys, tennis balls, nappies, clothing, sanitary pads/tampons, cooking waste, sand, and other wastes are not suitable for flushing into the sewer system.
  • Don’t put food scraps, oil or cooking fats down the sink. These can solidify when they cool and cause blockages. Instead wipe pans with a paper towel and throw the towel in the bin.

Consider the opportunities for recycling too. Cooking oil can be collected and then filtered and recycled into bio-fuel, cosmetics and stockfeed; fats can make tallow. Solids can be composted or used for agricultural pastures.

Water authorities are tackling the fatberg problem in these ways:

  • Awareness campaign – Sydney Water’s award-winning campaign to ‘keep wipes out of pipes’ highlights what should and shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet.
  • Legislation – The ACCC instituted proceedings in the Federal Court in December 2016 against Pental Limited and Pental Products Pty Ltd, alleging false or misleading representations in relation to ‘flushable’ wipes marketed and supplied in Australia.

Curran Plumbing has a special offer where you can save SAVE $250 on a Sewer Line Replacement

Our latest technology enables us to solve your sewer line issues underground – get in touch today.

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March 25, 2024
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March 21, 2024
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March 21, 2024
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Francesca Pami
March 20, 2024
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Very professional service. Jake came to quote me for the job and was the plumber who eventually did my plumbing. A beautiful person who was both extremely polite and respectful as well as being very skilled and so helpful. He cleaned up after the job and made sure I was happy with everything he did. I will definitely use Curran’s for my future plumbing needs.
Tim Lukacevic
March 19, 2024
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From time placed call last night to the time technician arrived was good service and kept informed. Early morning phone call to get more info and see how was the tap going under the sink . Will who attended our place very nice guy . As have had Currans plumbing in the past for jobs. Now they have more different things do in the business which is great Renewed our membership We were happy and didn't realise our tap was still covered when was installed in just over a year ago. Always hold upfront what job will cost
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March 18, 2024
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March 11, 2024
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March 3, 2024
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February 29, 2024
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February 29, 2024
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February 26, 2024
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February 20, 2024
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February 5, 2024
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February 4, 2024
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February 1, 2024
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January 31, 2024
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January 29, 2024
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January 24, 2024
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January 17, 2024
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January 12, 2024
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January 12, 2024
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January 10, 2024
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January 10, 2024
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January 10, 2024
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January 9, 2024
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Tony Crawford
January 8, 2024
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December 19, 2023
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December 10, 2023
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December 6, 2023
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December 4, 2023
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December 4, 2023
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November 30, 2023
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November 29, 2023
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November 22, 2023
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Ann Cameron
November 22, 2023
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pwreid25
November 20, 2023
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November 18, 2023
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November 16, 2023
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November 15, 2023
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November 14, 2023
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Onge Onge
November 9, 2023
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November 7, 2023
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November 2, 2023
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David Smith
November 2, 2023
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We had a blocked sewer. Communication with the organisation wad easy. I was kept informed about the job. Nathan was polite, well presented and had a great attitude. He explained what he would do and why. The job was done well, he explained what he did and what the result of his work was. He did a great job. Thanks
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November 2, 2023
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October 31, 2023
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They were on time. They rung before coming as they said they would. They explained what they were doing before they started doing the work. They show me what they did and made sure everything was working efficiently before leaving.
Cheryl Harris
October 27, 2023
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I found the guys at Curran Electrical and Plumbing to be great, they were open really friendly and helpful. They did the job on time with no mess. I also found them to be honest. I thought I had to replace two lights in the bathroom however while installing the new ones we found another switch so I did not need them replaced after all and the quote was adjusted to reflect this.
Bryan Rugg
October 25, 2023
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Paul Blanden
October 25, 2023
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Jimmy's Burger Truck
October 23, 2023
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October 18, 2023
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October 16, 2023
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Kevin Ryan
October 15, 2023
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Michael C
October 10, 2023
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Charlie Bell
October 6, 2023
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Curran were able to come to me at short notice after a sewer disaster. They kept me informed of timing and Jake the plumber was clearly knowledgeable and passionate about his trade. He was efficient, thorough and happy to answer questions and tell me why and what he was doing offering a practical solution to our ageing property’s plumbing needs. Thank you. I’ll be in touch
Tracy Webb
October 5, 2023
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Fast and efficient service with everything explained before the job was commenced. Professional and friendly which was very nice.
Jono Q
October 3, 2023
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Katrina Toland
September 25, 2023
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We use Curran's for any plumbing requirement we have. They communicate well and are conscious of the importance of everyone's time. I totally recommend their services.
Mitch Ashford
September 12, 2023
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My mother who's in her 80's needed her toilet fixed. Curran Plumbing and Electrical did everything perfectly. Service was fast, plumber did a great job after informing me of the several options I had. He was also polite, well mannered and friendly, taking the time to ensure I understood everything he did. Service was perfect and I highly recommend Curran Plumbing and Electrical
Merryn Wright
September 12, 2023
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Curran Plumbing & Electrical recently installed a new pump on my rainwater tank. I am very pleased with their work and also that they were able to do it within a few days of getting their quote. I also appreciated that when the quote was done that a video was taken of what needed to be done, so that whoever did the work knew what needed to be done.
Folilia
August 26, 2023
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Had a new toilet installed and 6 taps replaced with ‘quarter turn’ taps to aid my arthritic fingers. Perfectly happy with the work and the very professional and friendly tradesmen. Gold stars to Luke, Josh and Jake
Jeff B
July 01, 2023
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Jake arrived on time, we talked thru our issue and he checked out our storm water problem. He was easily able to pinpoint our blockage and put together 2 quote options to rectify the fault. Jake is a good representative for the business👍
John Q
June 29, 2023
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Well done team. Great to finally meet a professional company. You guys responded quickly, found the problem, gave a respectable quote (unheard-of nowadays) and got the job done. This is the place to go if you have any electrical or plumbing needs. Thanks again Curran
Kelly S
June 28, 2023
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Sam was excellent. He was on time, polite, and did a fantastic and thorough job. He gave us detailed options for the job and we appreciated his honest and professional opinion. We will 100% use Curran plumbing again.
Dave P
June 04, 2023
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Sam was bang on time and fixed our septic issue very quickly. He also sent a camera up the pipes to ensure everything else was fine before leaving. We've enjoyed our ongoing relationship with Curran after they did some major works for us last year and our membership is well worth it.
John D
May 26, 2023
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The people doing the work were friendly, professional and informative and the work was carried out in a timely manner. You should be proud of the plumbing and electrical people who completed this work
Gordon M
July 18, 2022
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Currans supplied us with constant updating of the project and when completed arranged for an inspection of the completed works.
Mitchell F
July 16, 2022
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From the first phone call Curran plumbing services were professional, showed up on time for scheduled quote , then me updated when the job was going to be completed . On the day of install all of the staff were well trained , well spoken and installed my new instantaneous gas hot water system like they were installing it in their own home . The quality in detail to make sure I was satisfied didn’t go unnoticed. At the end of the day I feel like I have gained a plumber for life . 100% recommend.
InJect A Joint V
July 13, 2022
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Luke was a Complete Gentleman and he explained every detail to my wife and i!! On this basis we excepted his Quote on the Spot and told him to go ahead and install our Brand New Australian made Hot Water System!! It was all Done that afternoon with Expert Precision d we had Hot water by 4pm!! Absolutely Marvellous Well Done! Sid you should be Very Proud of the Workmanship that Luke Performed!!
Brian D
July 13, 2022
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From my first contact with your company to completion of the job was only a few days tree roots in the sewer pipes gone, big thanks to your team.
David Collins
July 11, 2022
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Hi it's Dave from Dapto for Block drain problem, Part of Sewer drain renewal and ground was leveled nice & looks good, kitchen drain came apart and was reconnected all services where friendly and good communication excellent work. Thank you
Kingfisher Maritime
July 10, 2022
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I found Josh from Curren Plumbing to be very honest and trustworthy in the work he carried out at my home. Josh communicated everything he was going to do and the results of these actions in a manner I was able to understand. I was happy with the work Josh did at my home.
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