Monday, August 13, 2018

Prevent Sewage Backups-Don’t Pour Grease Down the Drain

Do not pour cooking fats, oils and grease (FOG) down any drains or toilets in your home. In septic and sewer lines FOG catches on the pipe surface and clings to the walls of the sewer system anywhere there is a disruption, like a tree root in a joint, or sag under your yard or along a roadway, or something that might give the FOG a place to catch. All pipes have some friction points. The FOG builds up one layer at a time making a smaller, narrower path for the water and waste to travel through, ultimately causing a backup or pipe to burst. The FOG will clog sewer pipes, septic lines and can then cause sewer overflows and basement backups in your home.

FOG comes primarily from food such as cooking oil, lard, shortening, meat fats, sauces, gravy, mayonnaise, butter, ice cream and soups. Sinks, dishwashers, and food scraps put down garbage disposals deliver the FOG to the sewer system or septic system, it can be liquid when you put it down the drain, but turns viscous or solid as it cools in underground pipes. As the FOG builds up, it restricts the flow in the pipe and can cause the sewage to back up into homes or premature failure of the sewer pipes and septic systems. Generally speaking, the worst maintained pipes are the laterals and septic pipes owned by individual property owners. In most of Virginia, the laterals pipes are are owned by the properties that connect to them.

Maintaining the sewer and septic pipes, clearing tree roots and keeping grease out of the system and keeping grease out of the drains (and toilets) can prevent most sewage backups and extend the life of your drain field or peat media. When I was growing up in the middle of the last century, it seemed that everyone poured their cooking grease into and old coffee can and scrapped their plates into the trash. In our home we always had a Chock full o'Nuts coffee can under the kitchen sink because Jackie Robinson yes, The. Jackie. Robinson. was Chock full o'Nuts vice president and my Uncle, a baseball fan, insisted Chock full o'Nuts was the best coffee. When did we become a nation of people who put everything down the drain? Now counties and cities have developed education and outreach campaigns to get you to stop pouring grease down the drain.

Fats can often be reused. There are a number of fats, like bacon grease, chicken fat and duck fat that can be used for imparting their flavor into other foods. Bacon grease can be used in making corn bread or adding a little flavor to hash browns. Schmaltz is clarified chicken, duck or goose fat used for frying, cooking or as a spread on bread in Central European cuisine, particularly Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. The whipped fat has a fluffy, rich essence of fried chicken that adds a richness of flavor when incorporated into veggies, breads and meat dishes. I am more experienced with poultry fat than bacon fat, but it’s the same idea. These fats should be stored in a sealed container in the freezer or refrigerator. Cooking oil like vegetable, canola, and peanut oil, can all be used again. Store in a tightly sealed container, in a cool, dark place. That old coffee can under the sink or refrigerator .

Once you have gotten as much use as you can out of your grease and fat, dispose of the FOG in your trash in a solid form. I line an old plastic container with aluminum foil and refrigerate it until it is hard. Pull the solid grease out and put it in a zip lock bag with my trash.

To dispose of FOG in your trash, first make sure it is in solid form:
  • For small amounts in a pan, let the grease cool and solidify and then wipe with paper towels, wiping thoroughly before washing. 
  • Pour the grease into a lidded container with wood shavings or cat litter to throw in the trash. 
  • Place the grease in a strong container (tin can, coffee can or bottle) and freeze until solid. Then dispose in the trash. 

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