IMAGINE tackling nine double-deckers’ worth of fat mixed with wet wipes in a 4ft drain. Reporter HELOISE WOOD gets a whiff of what it takes from Thames Water’s sewermen.

SECOND World War bullets, a live hand grenade and half a Mini Cooper car are just some of the delights which have been discovered in London’s sewers.

Now Thames Water is appealing to people to stop tipping dripping down the plughole as blockages rise by around 25 per cent during Christmas.

Deputy chief sewer flusher Danny Brackley reveals how London’s drains are literally bursting with the wrong things and it costs £12 million a year to repair.


He says: "Festive fatbergs are the worst - a hideous concoction of turkey drippings, oil from your roast veg and fatty gravy.

"The biggest blockage I had to deal was nine double-decker buses worth of cooking fat and wet wipes underneath Leicester Square in 2010. We had to use pressure jetting to get rid of it.

"The smell is horrendous if you’re not used to it.

"When the fat congeals it takes the oxygen out of the atmosphere so we have to be really careful not to be poisened, it also gives out nitrogen and methane gas."

Mr Brackley, who is now starring in radio ads to prevent sewer abuse, believes our diet is partly to blame.

He explains: "It is getting worse since the 80s and the rise of fast food. We’re eating so much more it so grease is a problem.

"Fat and wet wipes can build up right outside your front door, building up until the sewer blocks and raw sewage is spilling out over the road or even worse, up through toilets into their home.

"To avoid this, you should wait for the cooking fat to cool, pour it into a container and put it in the bin'."

Bullets and a Mini Cooper

Mr Brackley continues to be amazed by the variety and scope of his job.

He says: "The best thing about the job is seeing the incredible architecture of the sewers, much of it dates back to the 1960s but the worst thing is the way people abuse them and put the wrong things down there.

"We regularly come across old coins or Second World War bullets and one of my colleagues once found a live hand-grenade.

"We also once found half of a Mini Cooper car - we still can’t work out how it got in there."

For more information, visit



November 27 - Thames Water workers removed a 15m-long blockage of fat and wet wipes from a pipe in Abbey Road after sewage seeped out into the road and made it difficult for residents to flush toilets

December 9 - Jetting equipment was used in Burns Avenue on to break up the blockage in a fat-filled sewer


November 5 - A Lewisham Road property was flooded after fat and wipes congealed together


December 10- Sewer rods were used to clear a blockage in Braddyll Street


November 28 - St Mary’s Avenue was plagued with a lump of fat clogging the drains so jets were bought in