Have you heard of a “fatberg?” It’s not a common term for most people, but for sewer workers it is well known, and a nightmare.

A fatberg is a clog of fats, oil, grease and wipes found in wastewater treatment sewers. These clogs cause major backups, damages and costly repairs to cities and to homeowners.

This is the time of year when it’s the worst. During our holiday season full of pies, casseroles, and turkeys, a lot of grease, fats, and oils get washed down kitchen sinks. This small action results in huge consequences for workers and costs for taxpayers.

While we are on the topic of clogs, don’t flush “flushable wipes.” Those marketing the “flushable” products don’t have to clean out sewer pipes. In all accuracy of the term, you can “flush” the wipes, but they don’t break down like toilet paper. These wipes, which don’t break down, are part of the clogging, costly, messy problem.

It’s not always downstream either, they could be clogging pipes right next to your house. If you use disposable wipes, place them in the garbage.

Back to grease. Here are some options for what to do with your bacon grease, chicken fat and other oily foods during this holiday season.

Properly dispose:

  • Dump fat, oil and grease onto a newspaper in the garbage.
  • Let liquid fat (like bacon grease) cool in the pan or a container. Once it solidifies you can scrape it into the trash or organics compost.
  • Wipe out greasy pots and pans with a paper towel before washing. Sometimes that extra grease leaves a nice protective sealing on the pan, so maybe just a light wash.

Other ideas

  • Soak up grease with pieces of crusty bread and place the bread on bird feeders for wild critters.

Following these best practices for getting rid or grease and fats will ensure both you and those working in the waste water world will have a happy holiday season.

Madeline Seveland is an education coordinator with Carver County Water Management. She can be reachedat mseveland@co.carver.mn.us.

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