Prevent plumbing woes this holiday season

Prevent plumbing woes this holiday season
Posted on 11/22/2021

The holidays are right around the corner, and while that means lots of yummy food to eat, it also means tons of cooking with fats, oils and grease, also known as FOG.

Throughout the year, but especially as the holidays approach, El Paso Water reminds residents to “Defend Your Drains” and not discard FOG down any of the drains in your household.

If poured down the sink, FOG can clog wastewater lines and potentially lead to wastewater backing up into your home or neighborhood. Unfortunately, wastewater clogs due to FOG have increased in El Paso over the past two years. This year alone, EPWater has already seen a 38% increase in clogged wastewater pipes due to FOG compared to 2020.

FOG includes butter, shortening, margarine, meat trimmings, poultry skin, cheese, milk cream, sour cream, cooking oils, salad dressing, gravy, and mayonnaise.  None of these items should be going into your drains. EPWater also recommends using a paper towel to wipe out any remaining FOG from pots and pans before cleaning them in the sink or dishwasher.

Throwing FOG in the trash is the easiest way to avoid expensive plumbing visits and prevent blockages in the wastewater system. Click here for a simple trick to safely collect grease rather than sending it down the drain.

“People tend to think that small amounts of oil or grease don’t matter,” said David Ornelas, El Paso Water Wastewater Systems Division Manager. “But in the long-run, FOG can harden and build up to massive amounts causing serious problems.”

If you happen to have a large amount of FOG from your holiday meals, you can safely discard it by storing it in a leak-proof container and dropping it off at one of the city’s Citizens Collection Stations. To find the nearest location, click here or call 311.

Just because it goes down, doesn’t mean it should

FOG isn’t the only substance that can cause blockages in the sewer system and your home. Sanitary products such as flushable wipes and nappies are also a major culprit in the struggle to keep pipes clear.

When wipes enter the wastewater system, there is extra time and labor that goes into removing these types of items when they get to our lift stations, a process they call “de-ragging”. Crews at EPWater’s four major lift station sites report that de-ragging efforts have doubled from three times a week to six or seven times a week.

“Though some of the sanitary products may be labelled flushable, the truth is the opposite, as they do not break down like normal toilet paper,” said Ornelas. “It’s up to us as a community to discard of these items properly.”

Keeping the wastewater system running without interruption is critical during the ongoing pandemic. To prevent wastewater pipe blockages, avoid flushing anything but toilet paper.


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