Sidmouth fatberg: Work starts to remove 'monster'

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Media captionWorkers attempt to clear giant Sidmouth fatberg

The removal of a 210ft (64m) "monster" fatberg which is blocking a sewer in a seaside town has begun.

The congealed mass of fat, oil, wet wipes and other rubbish was discovered in the sewers of Sidmouth in December.

South West Water has removed the first chunk of it and taken 3D scans of the "unwanted Christmas present".

It is estimated it could take eight weeks to remove it by breaking it down with manual labour and sucking it up to the surface.

Image copyright South West Water
Image caption The first chunk of the colossal fatberg has been removed

Clearance teams are using a combination of pick-axes and high-pressure jets to clear the colossal chunk of congealed fat.

They are wearing full breathing apparatus and body suits because of the dangerous gases released by the fatberg.

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Media captionFatberg: Inside Sidmouth's sewers

High levels of hydrogen sulphide and methane mean the air is also too unstable to risk taking cameras down to film the removal, according to the water provider.

It is an unpleasant job for the teams involved, with workers from the Whitechapel fatberg in London in 2017 describing the smell as "rotting meat mixed with the odour of a smelly toilet".

Once broken down into a manageable consistency, the fat is being sucked up a pipe into tankers waiting on the surface.

It will then be processed at a plant which turns waste into electricity.

Image copyright South West Water
Image caption The fatberg in Sidmouth is the largest South West Water has ever discovered
Image copyright Museum of London
Image caption Fatbergs are caused by a build-up of fat, oil and wet wipes

Fatbergs can be prevented by only putting the "three Ps" down your toilet - pee, poo and paper.

Most campaigns by water companies reference the "three Ps" and urge people not to dispose of nappies, condoms and wet wipes this way.

South West Water asked everyone not to "pour fats, oil or grease down the drain, or flush wet-wipes down the loo".

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Media captionWhat causes fatbergs?

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