'Fatbergs' cause thousands of euro worth of damage to city's sewerage system
'Fatbergs' the size of boulders and sewers which are 35pc blocked have been discovered in Galway.
A pilot project in the city has found that fats, oils and greases (FOGs) are wreaking havoc in the sewer system, causing damage which will cost hundreds of thousands of euro to address.
A fatberg is a congealed lump of fat, often containing wet wipes or other sanitary items, which does not break down in the system.
The project, initiated by Irish Water, found that more than 90pc of businesses in the city, including restaurants, laundrettes and hairdressers, failed to have controls in place to reduce the rate of FOG discharges into sewers,
This has resulted in serious odour issues and overflows across the network, with some sewers blocked and leading to water quality failures.
A sewer along Shop Street is home to a "boulder-sized" fatberg approximately 400mm wide, a 300mm blanket of FOG and a part of the sewer is 35pc blocked due to continued uncontrolled discharges.
The cost of remediating and rehabilitating this sewer will be significant, Irish Water said.
The pilot project arose after Galway City Council identified historical flooding events related to FOG blockages on some of the major streets in the city.
A pilot area from Eyre Square to Sea Road, and a strip in Salthill, was examined where a large number of food service businesses are located.
Businesses are supposed to have licences in place allowing them to discharge into sewers, but only in Dublin City is a system in operation.
Irish Water asked businesses to set out the controls they had in place to eliminate discharges, and have begun to roll-out an education programme. It plans to implement a national licensing regime, which is required under the Water Pollution acts.
Hotel and publican representative groups, Fáilte Ireland, retailers group RGDATA, traders associations and the Galway Chamber were consulted, along with meetings of business owners.
Some 400 visits were made to 270 premises, but 90pc had no controls for grease discharges into the sewers. In 2013, a fatberg the size of a bus was removed from a sewer in London. The blockage was discovered after residents in flats complained that they couldn't flush their toilets.