In an operation that lasted around seven hours, States employees took it in turns to be lowered into an underground pit at Beaumont, where waste water from the whole of the west of the Island collects before it is transferred to the treatment works in Bellozanne Valley. They cleared 4,000 litres of material from the station during the operation.
Without the work taking place, pumps at the centre can become blocked and the risk of raw sewage spilling into the surrounding area increases.
According to the Infrastructure Department, around £160,000 is spent clearing Jersey’s 121 pumping stations each year, but, officals said, time and money could be saved if Islanders took more care.
William Hickinbottom, pumping stations manager, said that two employees wearing breathing equipment had to be on standby during the work in the event that a valve holding back the west of the Island’s waste failed, flooding the pit with sewage.
‘We have guys with breathing apparatus sets on at the station who can dive in and rescue them if need be, but thankfully we have never had any major problems before,’ he said.
‘There is an incredible weight being placed on the valve into the station. It is holding back everything from the Atlantic Hotel area, Beaumont, the Airport and quite a few other places, so we need to be able to get the guys out if anything breaks.’
He added: ‘There are times that we are dealing with very high flows, in the same way that Jersey Electricity has periods of high demand, such as when people come home after work and turn their televisions and kettles on.
‘That is why we cannot do the work during the day. We shut down the station at about 11 pm, when most people have gone to bed, and reopen it at around 6 am.’
The Infrastructure officer added that it was not just fat and grease that caused the pumps to fail, saying that the teams had also found a number of other items including underwear and a pair of jeans.
He said: ‘We have had someone throw their jeans down drains and knock out one of the pumps. I do not actually know how they managed to do that.
‘We have also had to pull out loads of pants from pumps – the elastic snags on the motor and stops it from working.’
The problem of fat entering public sewerage systems hit the headlines in 2017, when a 250-metre-long 130-tonne ‘fatberg’ was discovered underneath the streets of east London. Similar, albeit much smaller, ‘fatbergs’ have been dealt with in Jersey in recent years.
Mr Hickinbottom added that people should not pour fat down the drain.
‘What a lot people do not realise is that although it disappears down the drain, it does not disappear from our attention. We end up having to deal with it.
‘That could be the cooking fat from a chip pan, or when someone has their Sunday roast and all the juices run clear and they put it down the sink. It all congeals and causes problems.’