Urban Utilities Operator Melissa McGovern at Eagle Farm Pump Station. Picture: Urban Utilities.
Urban Utilities Operator Melissa McGovern at Eagle Farm Pump Station. Picture: Urban Utilities.

Dire warning as fatbergs hit closer to home

URBAN Utilities is urging Queenslanders not to flush disposable wipes down the toilet, warning that doing so will continue to result in monstrous fatbergs lurking in our sewer systems.

Some bergs have been the size of small cars, causing hours-long headaches for crews working to unblock the network.

The urgent warning comes after the High Court yesterday dismissed a case by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against Kimberly-Clark Australia's use of the word 'flushable.'

Urban Utilities, which provides water to Brisbane, Ipswich and several smaller councils, warned the Eagle Farm pumping station - the network's largest - was already being cleaned daily.

"We remove around 120 tonnes of wipes from our sewerage network every year, which is the equivalent of 34 hippos," Urban Utilities spokeswoman Michelle Cull said.

A fatberg found at the Sandgate water treatment plant. Picture: Urban Utilities.
A fatberg found at the Sandgate water treatment plant. Picture: Urban Utilities.

"At our Bundamba sewage treatment plant, we recently removed a record one-tonne ragball which was the size of a small car," Ms Cull said.

"It took our operators around five hours to manually remove that with pitchforks and shovels. It does take up a lot of time and resources."

Ms Cull said that increased hygiene awareness during the coronavirus pandemic was doing little to stem the relentless tide of fatbergs, and warned residents that their own systems weren't immune.

"We're disappointed but we do respect the decision of the Federal Court," she said.

"Despite the ruling, we're still encouraging our customers to avoid flushing wipes because they do cause problems for our network. They can also cause blockages in people's household plumbing as well."

Despite the warning from Urban Utilities and other companies nationwide, Kimberly-Clark yesterday claimed victory following the ruling in the High Court.

"The Court's unanimous decision that claims made by Kleenex with regard to flushable cleansing cloths were not misleading is testament to the quality and safety of this product," a statement on the company's website said.

"The wipes were designed to be, and are, suitable to be flushed."



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