As the aroma of baking ham and barbecues fills the homes and backyards of Canberra this summer, Icon Water is reminding Canberrans to think before they pour any liquid into their drains.
Icon Water General Manager of Infrastructure Services Gerard Brierley says many people mistakenly think it’s OK to pour liquid fats and oils down the drain. It’s not.
“When fats and oils are in their liquid form it seems fine to pour it down the sink, but the problem is that when it reaches the sewer pipes the fats and oils solidify, causing blockages in the system. It can even cause your sewage to overflow back into your property,” Mr Brierley says.
Icon Water says that over summer, especially around Christmas time, there’s more fat and oil in the sewer system than there should be as people come together, fire up the barbeque and start baking. So Icon Water’s sending out a strong message: fats and oils need to go in the bin.
Mr Brierley says everyone can help to keep Canberra’s sewers clear and fatberg free.
“Pour fat from your Christmas ham, and grease from the BBQ, into a container, and then put it in the bin. Or keep a container with a lid under the sink and pour your cooking oil in there. Make sure to wipe out greasy pots and pans with paper towel before washing up or putting them in the dishwasher. Even with detergent, the fats and oils will still congeal once they are in the system.”
When fats and oils hit the sewer they combine with wipes and other non-flushable things and can cause fatbergs, a problem for utilities around the world. A fatberg is a large mass of cooking fat and other waste which has congealed and hardened after being poured down a drain, blocking a sewage system.
Icon Water spent more than $1 million last year on reactive sewerage maintenance and while problems are not always caused only by oils and fats, it’s definitely a big contributor.
In 2019 a 40-tonne fatberg was discovered in London, the size of a double-decker bus. It was mostly congealed fat, wet wipes and nappies.
Mr Brierley says that with the dry weather, trees are putting down longer roots to chase the water underground. The congealed fats and oils collect on the roots and combine with wipes and other items and cause blockages.
“Crews are called out every day to sewer choke repairs when with a little thought, problems could be greatly reduced. Everyone can remember that the only things to go down the drain should be the three P’s: pee, poo and paper. Not fats and oils.”