Britain's sewers blocked by toilet paper alternatives

Britain's ancient, fatberg-infested sewers are already choked to the grates thanks to irresponsible flushings during the coronavirus crisis. People running out of (or hoarding) toilet paper are instead using paper towels, kitchen napkins, wet wipes, newsprint and other materials that won't break down. Northumbrian Water posted this handsome image of the random trash locals are shoving into the system, and told them to cut it out.

The company said it understood people were "only improvising" but the consequences could be "devastating" to homes and the environment.

Head of wastewater networks Simon Cyhanko said they should use the bin.

"We understand some people affected by the limited toilet roll availability may have no choice but to use alternative products," he said.

The company also posted the following photo, which I presume is of the cleanest toilet in Berwick and the ideal that Northumbrian Water hopes all its customers maintain forthwith.

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Andy Serkis stars as talking anus in anti-fatberg PSA

Here's a little public service announcement with a lot to unpack. Fatbergs are horrifying agglomerations of grease, excrement and fiber clogging the waterworks beneath our cities. Britain's ancient sewers seem especially vulnerable, providing an endless stream of "thousand-foot fatberg removed" stories, complete with nightmarish footage of yet another London lard shoggoth. Flushed wet-wipes are a key cause of the problem, as they do not break down and instead become fatberg rebar.

Hence the need for Andy Serkis to play a talking anus in an anti-fatberg PSA, begging Britons to stop flushing wet-wipes. Read the rest

Raytracing with MySQL

Raytracing is a method for drawing scenes by modeling beams of light, illuminating and richocheting off objects. It's realistic but very slow, and only the newest and most expensive video cards [Amazon] introduce it to realtime games. MySQL is the most commonplace relational database, the sewer containing all the web's fatbergs, the last thing on earth you'd use for number-crunching graphics. Or ... is it? Behold the MySQL Raytracer, by Holtsetio.

This is a raytracing engine contained in a single Mysql SELECT statement. In the beginning of the code there are a few parameters that can be modified. The scene can be specified using the @triangles and @squares parameters, but everything is explained in the comments. The whole query returns a bitmap file which can be written to the filesystem using the "INTO DUMPFILE" syntax at the end of the query, if mysql has filesystem write permissions. The raytracer supports shadows and reflections, which makes it, to my knowledge, the most advanced MySQL raytracer on the market right now. However, it is not really polished and kinda slow. Since I didn't really know how to present this work in a demoparty friendly way, I just included two finished renderings.

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Latest fatberg news

Two "giant" fatbergs were removed last week from the sewers of St. Andrews, Scotland, reports the BBC. 20 tonnes (22 tons) of congealed grease, sewage and toilet paper had to be broken down, and Fife authorities embarked upon an educational campaign to get locals to stop pouring cooking fat down the drain.

Mike Will, waste water operations general manager at Scottish Water, said that businesses had collectively spent about £500,000 fitting new grease trapping equipment.

Philip Soden, managing director of ECAS, added: "Most people simply didn't realise their own actions could potentially lead to sewer flooding, causing irreparable damage to their own community.

A fatberg near Cincinatti caused an overflow, report local media, with "odor and discoloration" shutting down Winston Lake.

The overflow in Winton Woods was caused by a so-called fatberg, a large, solid blockage that forms inside a sewer system. This one was made of grease, wipes and other waste that wedged into spaces between tree roots, clogging the sewer. The fatberg was about 15 inches in diameter and 2 feet wide.

Valencia, Spain, became home to a fatberg that sent sewer workers on a nightmare operation compared by Valencia Plaza (English, ish) to the movie "Alien."

It all started one day when they realized that "something was not working well," says [Sanitation Engineer Jesus] Ceniceros. During the routine review mentioned they discovered that "there was a sewage relief to the old Turia channel" from this collector. It did not make sense, since these reliefs can only occur in case of heavy rains and that was not the case.

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64-meter fatberg lurks beneath English seaside resort

Fatbergs -- vast agglomerations of human waste, toilet paper, sanitary products and general filth held together by fat -- are often found in the sewers of major cities such as London. But a 64-meter monster now lurks under Sidmouth, a cosy English seaside resort on the Devon coast. [via]

South West Water (SWW) said the fatberg was the biggest it had found and it would take about eight weeks to remove. The firm's director of wastewater said he was thankful it was discovered "in good time" with "no risk" to the quality of sea bathing waters. Andrew Roantree said the discovery showed fatbergs were not only found in the UK's biggest cities, "but right here in our coastal towns". At 210ft, it is longer than the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, longer than a Boeing 747SP (185ft), and more than twice as long as a tennis court, (78ft).

The BBC points out that it is exactly as disgusting as you think. Does the fatberg smell?

Your imagination is correct. This is a huge congealed mass of fat, rubbish and anything that people flush down the toilet, whether it's meant to be flushed or not.

Southwest Water has asked residents not to feed the fatberg. Read the rest

One quarter of New Orleans' catch-basins were clogged to uselessness with 93,000 lbs of plastic Mardi Gras beads

London has fatbergs: glistening, multiton agglomerations of fat, sanitary napkins, "flushable" wipes, human waste, dirty diapers, used condoms, and delicious strawberry jam; New Orleans has 93,000 pounds of plastic Mardi Gras beads. Read the rest

Fatberg vanquished

After a nine-week battle (previously), London's sewer heroes have vanquished a 130-tonne (143 ton) fatberg lurking beneath the city. The congealed mass of fat, trash, wet wipes, diapers, condoms, excrement and death had formed a glistening wall of pale horror that presented "the most gut-wrenching work" waste manager Alex Stephens had ever seen. But the "beast is finally defeated".

Thames Water says fatbergs form when people put things they should not down sinks and toilets. The company spends about £1m every month clearing blockages from the capital's sewers.

The final section of the affected tunnels, reports the BBC, had to be cleared by hand, with shovels. Read the rest

YouTube "actively promoting" Vegas conspiracy theory videos

"It's an algorithm" was never a good excuse, but YouTube's had plenty of time to fix this one, and they don't even pretend to care anymore, even after media began to set quotes from anguished victims against those of smugly indifferent anonymous spokespeople.

The Guardian:

YouTube is promoting conspiracy theory videos claiming that the Las Vegas mass shooting was a hoax, outraging survivors and victims’ families, in the latest case of tech companies spreading offensive propaganda. ... YouTube told the Guardian that this footage and other specific conspiracy videos that appeared after a generic search did not violate its standards.

It is a sewer, the search results a fatberg of fake news and fury.

We can only suppose why Google (and Facebook, for that matter) refuse to deal with the problem, but it looks like they want their tracking and interaction-optimizing bullshit to do its work with the absolute minimum of dataset-polluting editorial moderation. They will only interrupt it when force--legal, regulatory, media, and public protest--is applied. And, frankly, the first three aren't working. Which leaves it to... you?

UPDATE: YouTube "tweaked" the search results to remove the high-ranking conspiracy videos, reports the WSJ. Read the rest

There's an 820-foot-long fatberg clogging an east London sewer

The latest fatberg (a hardened mass of condoms, nappies, wet wipes, fat, and other things that people insist on flushing down their toilets) (previously) to clog London's sewers is the Whitechapel whale, measuring 820 feet long, weighing 130 metric tonnes (as much as 11 double-decker buses) (this is a standard measure of fatbergs). Read the rest

Condom-clogged sewer pipe leads police to massage parlor

After "hundreds of condoms" were found clogging a sewer pipe in Austin, Texas, police realized that illegal sex may be afoot. A nearby massage parlor was subsequently busted.

Austin police then launched their probe that culminated in a raid about six weeks later where a woman who co-managed the business "was found in a massage room with a completely nude and uncovered male," the document said. Juan Wang and her husband Joseph Emery were arrested on suspicion of managing "a prostitution enterprise that used two or more prostitutes," it said.

Clogged draines was how they caught UK serial killer Dennis Nilsen. But that was human flesh.

Previously: 80-metre fatberg removed from London sewer. Read the rest

80-meter fatberg removed from London sewer

It took Thames Water four days to remove the biggest and smelliest blockage yet from beneath the city. (Previously) Read the rest

Titanic lump of fat & wet-wipes dislodged from sewer

Noted tax-avoiders Thames Water's press release trumpets the news that they have excavated the largest ever "fatberg" -- a technical term denoting a huge, impacted lump of "festering food fat mixed with wet wipes" -- from a London sewer. Read the rest