London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel

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iStock

UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

South Carolina Coroner Swears Local Dairy Queen Burgers Are Not Made of Human Flesh

Ocskaymark/iStock via Getty Images
Ocskaymark/iStock via Getty Images

Summer may be cooling down, but America's fast food wars are just heating up. While Popeyes and Chick-fil-A continue to debate who sells the best chicken sandwich (editor's note: let's not leave Publix's chicken tender sub out of the mix), a Dairy Queen in Greenwood, South Carolina, has been forced to fight back against a slate of recent claims that their burgers are made of ... people. Just how did these rumors get started? It's complicated.

Complex reports that last week, the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and state law enforcement officials raided several businesses in South Carolina's Greenwood, Abbeville, and Orangeburg counties—the Greenwood Dairy Queen being one of them. The officials were acting on a complaint that two men were operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, and they did reportedly find $200,000 in an unlocked safe at the Greenwood DQ. Though the name of that DQ's manager, Saif Momin, came up in the initial investigation into the financial crime, authorities have made it clear that Momin has not been charged with any crime, nor were any of his 18 employees in any way connected to the raid. But none of that is the strange part of this story.

In the wake of the raids, dozens of rumors began flying about what the FBI was looking into at the local ice cream franchise. That's when a corporate inspector informed Momin that, in what appears to be a separate incident, someone had lodged a complaint about “human meat being inside a burger” at the same DQ. It didn't take long for social media to catch on, and use Twitter as a platform for confirming whether or not there was a Soylent Green-like situation happening.

Even after Dairy Queen confirmed that their burgers are 100 percent beef and zero percent human being, the matter wasn't quite over. The continued public outcry led the Index-Journal, a local news outlet, to enlist the expertise of Greenwood County coroner Sonny Cox, who seemed taken aback by the question itself.

"I promise you, I’ve never had anything of that nature asked of me," Cox said. "I’ve never suspected anything like that. I can honestly say that’s the first I’ve heard of it, and I don’t see any validity in that at all. There’s little to no chance of anything like that ever being able to happen."

Momin echoed Cox's statement, telling the Index-Journal: "If that was the case, they already would have shut me down."

In November 2018, the Department of Health and Environmental Control gave Momin's store an A grade and a score of 97 percent. So it seems highly unlikely that your FlameThrower GrillBurger has any ground human meat in it—though it's certainly not the first time fast food burgers have undergone a thorough analysis.

Cannibalism accusations aside, one positive thing to come from this story is a reminder of the importance of local journalism.

‘Water’ in Kansas City Woman’s Ear Turned Out to Be a Venomous Brown Recluse Spider

N-sky/iStock via Getty Images
N-sky/iStock via Getty Images

Susie Torres, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, woke up on Tuesday morning with the distinct feeling that water was lodged in her left ear. She likened it to the swooshing sensation that can often happen after swimming, WDAF-TV reports.

Instead of waiting for the problem to resolve itself, Torres went to the doctor—a decision that might have saved her from some serious pain. The medical assistant was the first to realize something was alarmingly amiss, and immediately called for backup.

“She ran out and said ‘I’m going to get a couple more people,’” Torres told 41 Action News. “She then said, ‘I think you have an insect in there.’” For many people, the thought of having any live insect stuck in an ear would be enough to cue a small- or large-scale freak-out, but Torres stayed calm.

The doctors “had a few tools and worked their magic and got it out,” Torres said. The “it” in question turned out to be a spider—and not just any harmless house spider (which you shouldn’t kill, by the way). It was a venomous brown recluse spider.

“Gross,” Torres told WDAF-TV. “Why, where, what, and how.”

Miraculously, the spider didn’t bite Torres. If it had, she would’ve ended up visiting the doctor with more than general ear discomfort: Brown recluse bites can cause pain, burning, fever, nausea, and purple or blue discoloration of the surrounding skin, according to Healthline.

Torres may have remained admirably level-headed throughout the ordeal, but that doesn’t mean she’s taking it lightly. “I went and put some cotton balls in my ears last night,” she told WDAF-TV. “I’m shaking off my clothes, and I don’t put my purse on the floor. I’m a little more cautious.”

Is this the first time an insect has posted up in the ear of an unsuspecting, innocent human? Absolutely not—here are six more horror stories, featuring a cockroach, a bed bug, and more.

[h/t WDAF-TV]

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