Don’t Feed the Fatberg: Michigan Science Center launches its new fatberg exhibit

Don’t Feed the Fatberg: Michigan Science Center launches its new fatberg exhibit
December 6, 2019 Natasha Blakely

On Thursday, Dec. 5, a few handfuls of people gathered to welcome the Michigan Science Center’s new fatberg exhibit.

A fatberg is a mass of fats, oils and grease congealed with a variety of solids.

Fatbergs develop in pipes when things like wipes and other things have been flushed or dumped down the drain instead of being disposed of properly. They can build up to the point they block sewage flow and cause backups into homes and waterways. Removing fatbergs is a costly process as well.

In September 2018, Macomb County Public Works found one 19 tons, 100-feet long, 11-feet wide and six-feet tall.

The fatberg was removed—costing Macomb County $100,000 to remove—but part of it lives on at the Michigan Science Center in its new exhibit.

“It’s exciting for us to be able to create an exhibit on this, to raise awareness and give people an opportunity to learn more,” said Christian Greer, president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, during the exhibit launch. “Exhibits like this are very good for us as examples for young people as well, for them to be able to create new questions and new ideas around applying their learning to making a difference and an impact in society, specifically around science, technology, engineering and math.”

Photo by Natasha Blakely

Fatberg Exhibit at the Michigan Science Center, Photo by Natasha Blakely

The exhibit features information about fatbergs, video footage of its removal and two display cases—one with a portion of the fatberg and one with some of the items found in the fatberg.

“(Children) can be a part of changing and helping to make a better world for themselves environmentally as well as saving money, saving infrastructure, because just because it’s underground or out of sight, it can’t be out of mind,” said Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner.

The fatberg exhibit was created in partnership with Macomb County Public Works and Wayne State University, with help from a National Science Foundation grant.

Fatberg Exhibit at the Michigan Science Center, Photo by Natasha Blakely

Researchers at Wayne State’s WATER Lab and Healthy Urban Waters have been studying the fatberg and how they form.

“What did the NSF see in this project that made them jump on it right away?” said Carol Miller, director of Healthy Urban Waters. “I really think that one of the things was collaboration, the fact that we have a university, we have a local unit of government and then we have the esteemed Michigan Science Center, all coming together on a project that has research and education involved.”

The exhibit will be in the museum’s infrastructure area near the main entrance for at least 4 to 6 months, according to Greer.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to take something that people were interested in and actually get to see it, makes it real,” Greer said.

The Michigan Science Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information on directions and purchasing tickets, go to the Michigan Science Center website.


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