Be Sewer Savvy for the Holiday Season
By Warren Tenney
Prepping for the holiday season always tends to be a bit more challenging with our elaborate menus and long to-do-lists as we prepare to host, cook, and of course eat. This means that the kitchen tends to be a busy place. But no matter what your holiday menu might entail, it’s important to be sewer savvy so that your stretchy pants can be reserved for relaxing and not plunging.
As you prepare your family feast as well as during the extensive clean-up that follows, no amount of grease should ever go down your drain. This includes not only the cooking oil that may be used to deep-fry the turkey but any food remnants that contain fat, oil or grease (known as FOG) including gravy, buttery potatoes or baked goods like leftover pumpkin pie. FOG can cause sewer damage and backups, and that is one thing you won’t want to deal with at any point over the holiday season.
Water that goes down the kitchen drain doesn’t disappear. It travels through the sewer system to the wastewater treatment plant to be processed and cleaned and then is reused for purposes such as groundwater recharge and landscape irrigation or released back out into nature to join the water cycle once again. Because the sewers get water from thousands of kitchens, the smallest amount of grease and oil can build up and completely clog a pipe as the fats and grease cling to the inside your city’s sewer pipes causing unnecessary damage. Those greasy contaminants can also make waste water treatment and processing far more challenging than it has to be.
To avoid clogs, back-ups and ensure your neighborhood keeps things moving, here are a few ways to keep your plumbing working throughout the holidays and save your city time and money while keeping FOG at bay:
- Pour cooking oils and grease into a small container with absorbent material, such as a paper towel or coffee grounds, and dispose of it in the trash or recycle it at a grease disposal or environmental recycling site that may be available in your city (links below). Please do not pour liquids directly into your trash!
- Scrape food from dishes into the trash (not the garbage disposal) and wipe down greasy plates, pots and pans with a paper towel before washing.
- Filter and reuse large amounts of deep-frying oil.
- Refrigerate and reuse fat for cooking.
- Prevent food particles from entering your sewer by covering your kitchen sink drain with a strainer.
- Limit your use of garbage disposals because they only shred solids and do not prevent grease from building up again.
- And remember that hot water from your tap or dishwasher might appear to melt the grease and push it further down the drain, but it will solidify again once it cools. This will cause a build-up in the main sewer system ad can affect neighboring sewer lines.
In addition to time spent in the kitchen, we know that with a house full of company the bathroom can also see an increase in traffic flow, so it's important to ensure your guests are sewer savvy by letting them know that what you flush matters. It’s important to remind them that the toilet is not a trash can, and things such as wipes, paper towels, facial tissue, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, cotton balls, band-aids, and dental floss should never be flushed. They do not break down in the same fashion as toilet paper and cause clogs, as well as get tangled with everything else fighting to get through the pipes causing back-ups. So make sure they understand that human waste and toilet paper are the only acceptable items to be flushed.
By not putting any unneeded strain on all your drains and pipes, you can avoid an unplanned visit from your plumber, not just during the holidays, but year-round. Clogged pipes and sewer back-ups are never a good surprise, plus they can do significant damage to your home, neighborhood and the environment. Limiting contaminants and unwanted items from entering our pipes ensures a clean and properly functioning sewer system, which benefits us all.
To find out more tips and about available cooking oil recycling programs and disposals drop-offs available to you, please visit the links below.
For 50 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.
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