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Pieces of Macomb County 'fatberg' donated to Wayne State for research

The infamous Macomb County "fatberg" is getting new life in a research lab.

A "fatberg" is what those in the sewer business call a collection of fats, oils and grease -- known as "FOG" -- that collected in the pipe and is mixed with solid items that are flushed down sewer pipes, such as baby wipes, according to the Public Works Office. 

In Sept. 2018, officials found one in an 11-foot diameter sewer pipe known as the Lakeshore Interceptor.

This fatberg was 100 feet long, 11 feet wide and as much as 6 feet tall. The Public Works Office said it "is the largest such mass in the memory of sewer workers in Macomb County."

During removal, pieces of the fatberg were presevred and will be donated to Wayne State University for research purposes. The hope is to display the pieces at the Michigan Science Center some day soon.

“Although FOG blockages have been known for many years, our understanding of their detailed chemical structure and formation mechanisms is lacking due to limited real-time and in-place data,” said Carol Miller, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Healthy Urban Waters at Wayne State University.

“The formation and planned removal of such a massive FOG blockage presents a rare opportunity to study these formations, and funding received from the National Science Foundation will help our efforts in this regard.”

“This fatberg is somehow morbidly interesting, which gives us a chance to use it as a teachable moment,” said Candice S. Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner. “This study can continue the effort to educate the public on simple but important steps they can take to protect our infrastructure and, ultimately, our environment.”

An $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will utilize real-time video, pressure data and advanced chemical analysis to advance the understanding of the physical and chemical structure of FOG blockages. Results will be used to identify potential risks associated with blockages and inform future targeted prevention and mitigation efforts.