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McMenamin, Eibhlin, 2024. What is a fatberg represented to be? : the handling of an environmental problem by Thames Water. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



This paper explores the problematisation of fatbergs (mixtures of fat, oil and grease that have solidified upon melding with a plastic containing item, typically wet wipes, in the sewers) by Thames Water, the private company that manages the sewerage system in London. This research was completed using the “what is the problem represented to be?” approach to critical discourse analysis. Data for analysis was gathered through eight interviews from actors in both the water and wet wipe industries, as well as documents produced by Thames Water and governmental bodies of the water industry. The concepts of social class and nonperformativity were applied to the findings in the discussion stage. The main findings are that the current approach to dealing with fatbergs by Thames Water passes the responsibility onto their customers using education and enforcement campaigns, obscuring larger issues in the water supply network and with the company itself, such as the financial pressures of the industry and the ageing infrastructure the company has responsibility for. These campaigns focus on certain groups, notably lower social classes and children, as targets to be educated. There is also confusion about the issue throughout the industry, as it remains a somewhat hidden problem, which is further complicated by the issue of ‘flushability’ and wet wipes. Furthermore, Thames Water faces a barrier in any action it takes, as there is a significant lack of trust toward them.

Main title:What is a fatberg represented to be?
Subtitle:the handling of an environmental problem by Thames Water
Authors:McMenamin, Eibhlin
Supervisor:Powell, Stina
Examiner:Calderon, Camilo
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2024
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM026 Environmental communication and management - Master's programme
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:Fatberg, Thames Water, discourse analysis, wet wipes, sewerage (English)
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Deposited On:14 Jun 2024 10:34
Metadata Last Modified:14 Jun 2024 14:26

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