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Scrape plates with leftovers and grease in garbage can, not sink

Seattle and other cities are experiencing problems with grease from households and restaurants collecting in sewer pipes and causing backups.

Plate Scraping Part of the problem is what consumers scrape off their dishes. If you don't thoroughly scrape the grease and other stuff into the trash or a food recycling bin, it rinses off in a scalding dishwash and accumulates in a city's pipes.

There, it cools down, solidifies, and sticks to the pipes, forming a rock-hard substance.

In the last five years, grease-clogged pipes caused about one-third of Seattle's sewer backups, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s article "Seattle’s Sewers Getting Clogged With Grease." There were 147 backups between 2003 and 2009, but those figures don’t include the times when residents called Seattle Public Utilities and found out the blockage was in the side sewer on their property.

Each time a city crew has to clean out the pipes, it costs about $1,500, according to SPU. That's about $220,000 for the 147 back-ups.

These backups are of concern to consumers, too. Most cities charge homeowners to clear backups that occur in the side sewer.

Here are tips to avoid adding fat and grease to city sewers:

  • Never pour oil or grease down the drain. Let cooked fats, oil, or grease cool and pour into a container that can be thrown in the garbage.
  • Remove leftover fat, oil, grease, and food waste from plates, pots, pans, and cooking equipment prior to rinsing or washing. Use paper towels, if needed, to wipe greasy dishes and pans before rinsing, washing by hand, or placing in the dishwasher. Scrape food into the garbage or food recycling containers.
  • Use sink strainers to catch food waste during dishwashing. Avoid using gargabe disposals.

Copyright 2010, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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