During the fall and winter months, I find myself spending more time in the kitchen. Annie’s nose has been working overtime taking in all the smells from the baking, crock potting, and cooking. The drawback to all of the cooking is the mountain of pots and dishes that are left in the wake of the culinary bonanza. In my tiny kitchen, managing the cleanup is a challenge. The quickest cleanup method would probably be to let Annie lick all the pots and pans and then put them in the dish washer. While Annie is 110% behind this plan, I don’t think our vet would be support this. The next option would be to wash all of the residues down the sink, then put the pots and dishes in the dishwasher. This Plan B is a terrible option for our environment and Arlington’s infrastructure.
Fats, oils and grease, affectionately referred to as “FOG,” are an enemy of our sewage system. Turkeys, hams, roasts, bacon, baked goods, and milk and cream are among the foods that generate FOG during food preparation. Especially when in liquid form (think fat drippings and oil residues), FOG quickly disappears down the drain but will be found again in the most unfortunate of ways.
Once down the drain, what started out as liquid FOG congeals in the sewer pipes. The sewer pipe becomes coated with congealed FOG, in addition to the wet wipes, hair and anything else that people have rinsed or flushed down the drain. See the photo above of a FOG-clogged pipe. Eeewwwww. So what’s the big deal if a sewer pipe is clogged? If wastewater cannot move through the pipe network to the sewage treatment plant, the water and waste has to go somewhere. Depending on the location of the clog, the wastewater can backup into your home through your toilet, tub or sink, or it can come up through a manhole outside. If it comes up through a manhole, then it will likely run down the street into the nearest storm drain, which is how this problem connects to the environment. Your wastewater, including the FOG, discharges directly into our streams if it goes down a storm drain.
DC Water’s Nicole Kaiser has been featured on Let’s Talk Live to discuss the problem FOG poses to local utilities in our region. FOG is an international problem and CNN has reported on London’s Fatberg. You can also watch London’s singing sewermen online. You know that this is a big problem when sewermen re-write holiday songs and don Santa caps within the sewer system to encourage the public to change their cooking disposal ways!
So what is Plan C for cleaning up your kitchen? Put the FOG in the trash. If the grease is hot, pour it into a metal can (coffee can, can the beans or pumpkin came in, etc.) and let it cool. Then either reuse the fat for cooking or throw it in the trash. If the FOG isn’t hot, wipe the pot or dish down with a paper towel first, and then throw the paper towel in the trash. Have a great (and sewer pipe-friendly) Thanksgiving!