'Fatberg' clogs up sewer line in Moose Jaw

A "fatberg" — a mass of solid materials and oils — temporarily blocked a 24-inch sewer line in Moose Jaw earlier this week, threatening the sewer services of thousands of residents.

City crews used water jets, large vacuum to break down mass of grease, oils and wipes

The City of Moose Jaw is asking residents to make sure fats, oils and grease don't end up in the sewer system after a 'fatberg' temporarily blocked a line in the city earlier this week. (Peter Gudella/Shutterstock)

A "fatberg" threatened the sewer services of thousands of Moose Jaw residents this week.

Fatbergs are masses of solid materials and oils that end up congealing in sewer lines, and can cause serious blockages.

The Moose Jaw fatberg temporarily blocked a 24-inch sewer line in the city earlier this week, officials said.

The gooey blockage was made up of fats, oils and greases — sometimes referred to as FOG — along with wipes and other sanitary products.

Crews used water jets and a large vacuum to break down the mass within hours, avoiding sewer backup, the city said.

The city is now asking residents to avoid pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain.

A photo of a sewer pipe in Moose Jaw caked with grease and oil. (City of Moose Jaw)

"That includes your gravy from Thanksgiving meal," utility supervisor for environmental services Jesse Watamanuk said in a video posted Thursday on the City of Moose Jaw's YouTube channel.

"What happens when they hit the sewer line is they start to solidify, and when they solidify, they decide to attach to things — whether it's the pipe wall itself, whether there's rags and wipes and other things that aren't supposed to be flushed down the drain," Watamanuk said.

"They start to attach to all that stuff and they start to form these solid lumps, and these lumps start to find each other and they start to accumulate. And then you end up with what could be called a fatberg."

Residents are asked to put fats, oils and greases into the trash rather than down the drain.

Examples of materials that shouldn't go down the drain include:

  • Gravy.
  • Butter.
  • Bacon grease.
  • Shortening/lard.
  • Any cooking oil.

The best thing you can do is let these liquids solidify and then throw them in the trash, Watamanuk said.

Wet wipes, cosmetic wipes and feminine hygiene products should also be put in the garbage rather than flushed.

Watamanuk said most of the time, clogged pipes begin in the home.

"You'll start to accumulate [that FOG mass] right away as it hits the drain — maybe into your stack or your pipeline that's just going to the street itself."

Two years ago the City of Saskatoon launched an education campaign for homeowners on how to prevent sewer backups called "irritable sewer syndrome."

Other cities have experienced far fatter fatbergs than Moose Jaw's.

In 2019, a 63-metre long fatberg was discovered in the Victorian-era sewers in the coastal town of Sidmouth in southwest England.

Researchers examined that greasy mess and discovered, among other things, some false teeth.


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