20 December 2019

Icon Water urges Canberrans: don't pour fats and oils down the drain this Christmas

| Karyn Starmer
Join the conversation
fats and oils

Put fats and oils in the bin, not down the drain. Photos: Supplied.

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.

Congealed fats

Congealed fats and oils in Canberra’s 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.”

liquid fats

It’s not ok to pour liquid fats and oils down the drain. Photo: File.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Introduce appropriate water restrictions, start sanctioning people who are breaking the current ones, THEN talk to us about fats and oils, OK?

What makes you say the current water “restrictions“ are not sufficient?

And I say restrictions in inverted commas as I know we don’t have restrictions just permanent conservation measures. But the question still stands what level should we be on and why?

Oh please. Icon water made profits of $90 odd million last year on revenues of $300 million. So they spent – MAX – 1/3 of one percent of revenues clearing drains of fat, the cost of which was passed straight onto consumers anyway. So basically icon water is asking, please, Canberrans, stop eating into our profit margins! Whatever …

Did we have a bad Christmas?

You must be about the only person complaining about advice that for many is just common sense.

And don’t know about you, but costs aside I don’t want sewerage coming back into my house because some drop kick has put fat down the drain and it is causing a blockage that is effecting others.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.