MCKEESPORT (KDKA) – Giant masses of fat, oil, and grease — known as fatbergs — can make a mess in your sewer system this Thanksgiving.
There is nothing like the sizzle and smell of fresh bacon in the morning.
But each sizzle extracts a little more grease that has to go somewhere.
Charles Schultz of Pennsylvania American Water — who supervises operations, including the McKeesport Sewage Treatment Plant — has a warning before you turn on the water.
“If you dump grease down the drain, it might not affect you immediately,” Schultz said. “But over time, it’s going to cause you problems.”
Pennsylvania American Water External Affairs Specialist Heather DuBose said the hot water people use to diffuse the grease only stays hot a while.
“It’s going to cool, it’s going to harden, it’s going to solidify, it’s going to adhere to the inside of the pipe,” DuBose said. “And over time, the pipe will get smaller and smaller and you’re going to have a clog.”
Beyond the issues to homeowners, once the fat, oil and grease get into the sewers, it combines with everything in the sewers.
“They form little balls,” Dubose said. “And they continue to roll and get bigger and bigger and bigger. Eventually, we have a real problem called a fatberg.”
Schultz held two fatbergs in his hands each slightly bigger than a golf ball.
“These are mini ones,” Schultz said. “I’ve seen a lot larger. I’d say the size of a basketball.”
This is not an issue unique to Pennsylvania American Water.
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority said it also deals with fatbergs and one was found in the sewers of London in September of 2017 that was estimated to weigh 130 tons and was several hundred feet long.
Schultz said part of the issue is that the fat, oil and grease get mixed up with things like disposable wipes, which don’t disintegrate and become the framework fatbergs use to form.
Pennsylvania American Water wants to raise the awareness headed into the big cooking holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
DuBose said even the drippings from your turkey should not go down the drain.
“It’s greasy, it’s fatty, it’s going to harden and stick to your pipes,” DuBose said.
Remember Grandma’s coffee can by the stove?
That remains the best method of disposal. Pour off the grease, let it cool and solidify before throwing out.
You can also wipe out the grease with paper towels.
Out of sight might be out of mind but into trouble.