Yarra Valley fatberg on display

A fatberg donated by Yarra Valley Water will go on show at Melbourne Museum to highlight what happens when wet wipes combine with fat in the sewer system.

Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat McCafferty said fatbergs cost the company $1 million each year largely as a result of the 650 tonnes of wet wipes and rags that customers flush down the toilet.

During an average week Yarra Valley Water retrieves almost 14 tonnes of wet wipes and rags from the sewer system.

Mr McCafferty said while Yarra Valley Water work hard to retrieve wet wipes build-ups still occur, creating blockages that inconvenience customers and harm the environment.

“A lot of wet wipes are marketed as ‘flushable’ but this is very misleading because they don’t decompose. It would actually take about six months for a wet wipe to decompose naturally.

“When combined with the fats and oils that people pour down the drain, the fatberg is born,” Mr McCafferty said.

The Water Services Association of Australia estimates blockages involving wet wipes cost the urban water industry in Australia over $15 million each year.

The fatberg is a 10 per cent sample of the mass it was taken from and is on display as part of Melbourne Museums Gut Feeling exhibition.

Related stories:

Yarra Valley Water wins Banksia Sustainability Award

Yarra Valley Water has been awarded the Banksia Sustainability Award for its waste to energy project, in the category of Leadership in the Circular Economy Award.

The category recognises approaches that allow the Australian economy to develop within the limits of nature, while eliminating waste.

The waste to energy facility, located in Melbourne’s north, converts commercial organic waste into a renewable and sustainable source of energy.

The recycling facility reduces landfill, cuts greenhouse emissions and produces enough renewable energy to pay for itself and more. The facility converts organic waste such as food scraps, which would otherwise be bound for landfill, into renewable energy.

The amount of energy produced is the equivalent of about 25 per cent of Yarra Valley Water’s overall energy requirements and powers the adjacent sewage treatment plant, with surplus electricity exported to the grid.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved; a great deal of work, planning and strategic thinking went into making this facility a reality. The water industry is directly impacted by climate change and has a responsibility to lead the way and do something about it,” said Pat McCafferty, Managing Director, Yarra Valley Water.

“The success of this facility really is a testament to the culture at our organisation which does not shy away from challenges. We are not afraid to look at the bigger picture to ask what else can we do to add value to our community. This way of thinking is what led to us becoming the first water utility in the world to commit to the UN Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals, and to create a facility such as this.”

In a statement, the judges of the award said the facility was not looking only at waste treatment and energy production, but other potential applications within the Victoria waste stream.

“Yarra Valley have done a fantastic job at creating a unique solution taking an existing methodology and adapting it for local conditions. It demonstrates excellent future prospects by achieving 100 per cent of their own power from a yet to be commissioned plant,” they said.