Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - 7:57am

The City of Madison Engineering Division would like to remind all residents to avoid sending fats, oils and grease down the drain this holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving.

Fats, oils and grease come from cooking oil, bacon grease, meat fats, food scraps, shortening, lard, butter, margarine, gravy, dairy products and other food products such as mayonnaise, salad dressings, and sour cream.

When fats, oils and grease are poured down kitchen drains, they harden when they cool and collect inside sewer pipes. As the fats, oils and grease build up inside the sewer main or lateral, they restrict the flow in the pipes and cause a sewer backup. A sewer backup is untreated wastewater coming out of a floor drain or basement bathroom fixture. Depending on the backup, the cleanup and restoration can be costly.

Engineering Operations crews respond to reported sewer backups and clean the sewer mains to remove the blockage in the sewer main. However, often the private sewer pipe to the home is impacted prior to the public sewer in the street being impacted. Engineering has 791 miles of sanitary sewer in the City.

Preventative Maintenance: Big Green Vactor Success
The City has nine green vactor trucks, which are a huge part of preventive maintenance success in the City. The trucks clear the pipes. For comparison, in 1980, City crews responded to, on average each year, 200-300 sanitary sewer blockages, and in the last few years, the number of sanitary sewer blockages was below 20 per year. Preventative maintenance and education is vital to keeping the City’s public sewer main clear.
Sewer backups can result in:

  • Clogged drains or toilets
  • Raw sewage backing up into your home
  • Raw sewage overflowing into the environment
  • Expensive cleanup, repair, replacement of damaged property
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Potential public health risks

Ways to prevent clogged pipes: Cool it, can it, trash it

  • Pour cooled oil, fats and grease into a can or other container with a tight lid (coffee can, glass jar, or plastic container) and dispose of it in the garbage.
  • Scrape fats, oils and grease into the garbage. Put compostable food (vegetables, fruits, breads, coffee grounds, tea bags) into a compost bin.
  • Wipe down greasy pots and pans with a dry paper towel. Throw the towel in the garbage before washing.  
  • Use your garbage disposal wisely. Don’t fill it completely before turning it on. Don’t grind up fatty, starchy or stringy foods. This includes celery, chicken or turkey skins and basically any part of the potato.
  • Use a sink strainer to prevent food or utensils from going down the drain.

If you experience a sewer backup, call 608-266-4430.