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EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Fatberg, Tampa’s big sewage clog

Stephanie Hayes | Here’s why you should not flush wipes, paper towels and grease.
Fatberg, a massive pile of wipes and grease that forms a sewer blockage.
Fatberg, a massive pile of wipes and grease that forms a sewer blockage. [ City of Tampa ]
Published Apr. 28, 2020

The coronavirus and ensuing toilet paper hunt has wreaked havoc on our pipes. City of Tampa contractors recently extracted what is known as a “fatberg,” a giant wad of sewer-clogging wipes and grease. Hillsborough County also has issued public service announcements telling people not to flush things that shouldn’t be flushed.

We sat down with Fatberg to learn more about this problem facing our underbelly.

So… where to start.

I know, right?

Let me get the spelling of your name.

F-A-T-B-E-R-G.

You sound like the idiot with a heart of gold in a college buddy movie.

Look, can we just get to it? I’m due for destruction.

Of course. Where are you from?

The Sulphur Springs Pump Station in Tampa. The wet well.

And you’re…

108 cubic yards. You can say it. I’m enormous.

You are also called a Clogg Monster, which sounds like a Gwar song.

That’s my buddy down at Big Bend West Master Pump Station in Riverview. We are very alike. We stop up the system. We slow down your water. We mess with manholes. We do all kinds of bad stuff. Guys like us, we’re all over the country.

How old are you?

I am a ball of wipes, oil, diapers, paper towels, sanitary napkins, things like that. I don’t celebrate birthdays.

That explains your lumpy, gray appearance.

You don’t look so hot yourself.

It’s quarantine. Ease off.

Tell me about it. Empty shelves have people reaching for wipes and towels when they can’t squeeze the Charmin. You should never flush wipes. They don’t break down like toilet paper. In fact, listen to the Environmental Protection Agency. Don’t flush any foreign objects, especially those that might be carrying COVID-19. Otherwise, you’ll be staring into my soulful eyes.

Could you spread COVID-19, Fatberg?

Experts are still looking into how the virus might spread through sewage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus has been found in untreated wastewater, but treated water is safe. Either way, would you want to touch me?

You seem nice.

Look, far be it for me to put myself out of existence. There’s a lot I’d like to try. Woodworking. Banjo lessons. But I’m no good for anyone. Not for the workers who have to pull me out. Not for the taxpayer. Not for the environment. I am a nuisance caused by people who would rather flush a problem out of sight than deal with something unpleasant. I am an allegory for our times; a representation of willful ignorance. I am the Falstaff of the sewers.

What do you suggest people do?

Only flush toilet paper. Throw the rest in the trash. While you’re at it, try to create less trash. Look at me, I’m a regular Boy Scout over here.

Who will be playing you in the movie of your life?

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Oh, McConaughey for sure.

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