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Pouring Cooking Grease Down the Drain Can Spell Sewer Problems for Residents

Think the fat, oils and grease poured down the drain is not that big of a problem? Think again.

In a recent email from Gwinnett County Connection, an article on reducing FOG (fats, oils and grease) jumped out: Gwinnett Water Resources (GWR) is encouraging all residents to reduce the amount of FOG, as well as food particles put down the drain, thus avoiding serious clogs and backups in the sewer system. 

Five years ago, GWR estimated, if every person in Gwinnett County put only one teaspoon of fat, oil, or grease down the drain, the result would be the equivalent of eighteen 55-gallon drums of FOG in the sewer system. The population of the county has expanded significantly since then, so it is that much more important for today’s residents to reduce the amount of FOG in the drain. This simple action will protect our personal property, our water sources, our parks and streets, and reduce the amount we have to spend in sewer fees over the long haul.

Pouring a little chicken fat down the drain would seem to have little impact on the health of a drain pipe. But once the fat separates from the water that is flushing the sink, the fat solidifies and sticks to the sides of the pipes.  (Watch the video at www.unclogthefog.com.) Repeatedly pouring a little bit of grease down the drain over time increases accumulation on the pipes, eventually blocks the flow of water, and resulting in back-up into the sewer system, streams, streets or even homes. These kinds of spills can also result in fines, not to mention the cost of repair and clean up.

Trees roots growing near sewer pipes seek water and will crack older clay pipe to gain access to the water. The combination of roots and FOG can quickly produce blockages in the pipe (“lateral”) from a residence to the street sewer collection system. Blockages on private property are the responsibility of the home or business owner; blockages on county property are resolved by the county, but can result in damage to private property.  DWR services approximately 600 miles of pipe on county property, cleaning out FOG before it causes problems.

A few simple steps can help prevent backups and protect drainage lines:

  1. Scrape plates into the trash, using paper towels (DON’T rinse plates with water since that washes FOG down the drain).
  2. Pour oil and fat (as well as other liquid food such as skimmed chicken fat, apple sauce and ice cream) into containers with lids and dispose of them in the trash.
  3. Pour cooled grease into a grease can (or other container) or absorb with newspaper or paper towels for disposal.
  4. Use mesh drain-catchers to collect food fragments that could be washed into the drain and stick to the accumulated grease on the sides of the pipes.
  5. Schedule regular maintenance on your sewer lateral so roots don’t have a chance to take hold.

In 2008, Gwinnett County spent more than half a million dollars on clean-up and property restoration caused by FOG-related overflow, according to the county website. It is not possible to prevent all fat, oil and grease disposal in the drain, but if everyone makes an effort, we can greatly reduce the chance of a backup and keep the  water supply and environment safer.

You can contribute to the FOG solution in Gwinnett County:

  • Report any illicit dumping 
  • Report any overflow immediately 
  • Educate your family, friends, and co-workers about FOG prevention
  • Schedule a presentation on FOG prevention for your child’s school, your homeowners’ association or other civic group
  • Look into recycling your used cooking oil, which reduces the amount of wastes that have to be disposed of in landfills
  • For additional information, visit www.unclogthefog.com, or call James Jones at 678.376.6713.

(Note: This article was provided by SafetySmart Lilburn, a non-profit working to build the safest community in Georgia. For more information about SafetySmart Lilburn, visit their website at www.safetysmartlilburn.org)

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