Don’t feed the fatberg: Austin Water asks residents not to pour cooking grease, flush wipes down drains
Add "fatberg" to the list of 2020 plagues to avoid.
The unsavory term, first coined in the U.S. in 2008, refers to a large mass of fat and solid waste that has collected in a sewer system.
When people pour turkey grease down their disposal, put a dirty dish in the dishwasher or flush a baby wipe, the substances gather underground in sewer lines, explained Dr. Joel Ducoste, a professor of environmental engineering at North Carolina State University.
Calcium present in background wastewater reacts with the fats and wipes to form a solid mass that can cause sewer backup or snapped pipes.
"It's basically the same structure as when soap is formed," he said.
Since the pandemic began in March—and disinfectant wipes flew off area shelves—the Austin Water utility has seen an increase of such materials in their system, said Environmental Conservation Division Manager Jay Porter.
Recently, a buildup of wipes clogged the Dessau treatment plant in North Austin. Repairs cost $750,000.
"It comes to a significant cost to repair these things, which ultimately can affect the public financially," he said, adding that many wipes are marketed as flushable even though they do not disintegrate in water.
In addition to threatening the utility's sewer pipes and treatment plants, such waste can also cause trouble for homeowners, depending on where the clog occurs.
"If the damage was on the private side of the sewer system, you're looking at anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 in repairs that the resident would be responsible for," Porter said.
Unlike restaurants, which are required to maintain grease traps and observe other city regulations, residential properties don't have such safeguards.
With Thanksgiving approaching, Austin Water launched its annual messaging campaign this week, which asked residents not to pour cooking grease and other fats down their drains.
Instead, Austinites can store it in a coffee canister or other container and put it in the trash. Alternatively, they can take it to the Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center, which will send it off to make biodiesel and prevent it from ending up in a landfill.
Porter is optimistic that Austinites will heed the utility's warnings.
"My experience with the Austin community is the majority of people take their responsibility to the environment pretty seriously," he said.
Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.
There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.
All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.
🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway