Most people have probably dropped a small item down the toilet by accident, never to be seen again. Perhaps a ring, an earring, or some other trinket may have accidentally fallen in and disappeared forever into the sewage system.
For some people, losing an item in the sewer is on a different scale - with a cow, hockey sticks and even a jawbone being among the unlikely finds. These are all items that have made their way into the sewer system, to be recovered at a later date. The strange finds have left the sewer cleaners with a few mysteries on (or in) their hands...
Some items of genuine sewer treasure have been unearthed - in particular, gold was found in Japan. The Suwa sewage treatment plant in Nagano, near Tokyo, reported a large amount of gold in its systems. It was spotted in 2009, when the country was in a recession, making the valuable find even more baffling.
During the course of the year, thousands of pounds worth of gold were found, including more than 1,890 grammes of gold per tonne of ash found in the incinerated sludge. So much gold was found that it surpassed the level at the Hishikari Mine (a leading Japanese gold mine), where between 20 and 40 grammes of gold were found per tonne of ore.
The high concentration of gold was blamed on a large number of equipment manufacturers in the region using gold in their manufacturing processes. The sewage plant received almost £40,000 for the sewer treasure.
While the Japanese sewage plant found hidden treasure, sewage workers in London weren't so lucky. They had to remove a giant fatberg from the capital's sewer system in 2017 that was 820ft long and weighed a massive 150 tons.
It was literally a giant ball of fat, mixed with items that had been flushed down the toilet, such as nappies, condoms, sanitary towels, cotton wool and wet wipes. It contained listeria, E-coli and campylobacter bacteria and took workers two months to remove, at a cost of £2 million!
Unfortunately, the Whitechapel fatberg, although the biggest in the world found to date, wasn't an isolated case. Fatbergs can be found causing problems in sewers all over the world.
Perhaps the oddest find in a sewer was a cow. In Fujian province, in eastern China, local farmer Sheng Hsueh realised one of his cows was missing. He spent four days searching for her, but without success.
Elsewhere in the village, residents were baffled by the distant sound of a cow mooing, having no idea where the noise was coming from. Then, the missing cow popped her head up through a manhole and Hsueh realised she was somehow stuck in the sewer.
No one knew how she could have possibly ended up there. A rescue operation was launched and the unfortunate cow had to be cut free and then hauled out by a winch. It was reported that she survived the ordeal and wasn't injured or upset.
Another bizarre sewer find, this time in Edmonton, Canada, was a jawbone. It startled sewer workers who found it in 2006, having no idea who or what it belonged to.
One of the sewer workers said later that the bone had been pulled out of an eight-inch line. He said, "It sure scared me when I saw it on the CCTV - I thought we were going to have to call in CSI, as it looked like it might have been human. I just saw the back part and the curve of the jaw. It was a rather scary day."
It was suggested later that the jawbone could have belonged to a herbivore and may have been from a domestic or feral pig.
Anyone for hockey?
Another odd find in Canada was a selection of hockey sticks in the sewers of Calgary. It was a complete mystery how they got there. However, hockey sticks in sewers aren't completely useless, as on a separate occasion, one was used to rescue a family of baby ducklings who had become trapped in a drain.
In 2015, in Regina, Canada, 15-year-old Ceiligh Dodds and her family were watching the ducklings when sadly, the baby birds fell down a drain. Ceiligh described it as "one of the saddest things" she had ever seen and immediately set about rescuing the birds with her father Dennis and two younger brothers Connor, aged 13, and Seamus, 11.
Mr Dodds attached a net to a hockey stick using duct tape and painstakingly scooped the ducklings, one by one, to safety. Once back on dry land, they were reunited with the parent birds.
Some things end up in the sewer by accident and aren't thrown in deliberately, but blockages such as fatbergs are the result of people carelessly discarding items down the toilet that should be disposed of more carefully.
If you have something unsavoury blocking your drains, call on the professionals to fix all your sewer and drainage problems. With more than 30 years' experience in drainage engineering, Exjet Services is here to help.
Whether you require cleansing and surveying, the removal of blockages, or a full service, contact us today for further details.