Pipe-busting waste called 'fatbergs’ are growing in Tampa during the pandemic

The city wants people to quit throwing non-flushable wipes and grease down the drain.
What do you get when people flush non-flushable wipes and pour grease down their drains? A "fatberg."
What do you get when people flush non-flushable wipes and pour grease down their drains? A "fatberg." [ City of Tampa ]
Published April 27, 2020|Updated April 27, 2020

TAMPA — Coronavirus has caused a run on toilet paper. And that’s trickled down to create a growing problem in Tampa’s sewers.

Last week, contractors removed 108 cubic yards of grease and non-flushable wipes at the Sulphur Springs Pump Station at 7902 N 13th St.

Related: Hillsborough scares customers with ‘Clogg Monster’ to keep sewer pipes clean

Masses of wipes, binded with grease, form huge blockages dubbed “fatbergs” and they can do real damage to sewer lines, both public and private, according to a city news release.

Sewage spills caused by fatbergs can pop manhole covers with sewage gushers and clog up equipment at pump stations. The city has already had to spend millions of dollars to reconfigure three pump stations and the city’s Howard F. Curren sewage plant to deal with the problem.

Clogged pipes have been a problem for years, even before the virus, as residents switched from toilet paper to wipes that don’t dissolve.

Pouring grease down the drain only makes the problem worse, city officials say.

The city of Tampa Wastewater Department‘s website has information about fatbergs.

The city urges residents who experience slow-moving drains or hear gurgling in the pipes to call (813) 898-1420. The city will send a technician to figure out what’s wrong. If it’s a city pipe causing the problem, they’ll fix it for free. If it’s your pipes, they’ll help you find a plumber. They’re open for calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.