|Fats, Oils &
Help Prevent Sewer Backups
If you are experiencing a sewer backup, it’s most likely due to a blockage in the sanitary sewer service line between the house and the City’s sewer main.
Sewage backup usually first arises within the sanitary sewer system. If it happens, discharge may appear around the cleanout and/or main drain in your basement. Various materials frequently flushed or poured down the drain can harm the pipes that connect to city sewers as well as the sewer system. Every property owner connected to the sewer system can be a potential contributor to sewer problems, and a potential victim of those same problems.
In order to prevent pipe and sewer blockages and to avoid costly clean-up bills, the only items that should be flushed down your toilet are human waste and toilet paper.
To control the degree or amount of backup:
- Stop using your plumbing fixtures until you have the sewer line cleaned out.
- We recommend that you call a local plumber / drain cleaner or rent a machine yourself to clean out your sewer line at your own expense.
- You may also choose to contact Environmental Utilities to dispatch City field operators to clean out your sewer, however please note that fees may apply.
Most sewer blockages happen when materials that DO NOT disintegrate are flushed into the sewer system (by way of sink, tub/shower or toilet etc.). In addition these materials often coat the inside of the sewer lines over time, causing blockages that sewage cannot pass through.
“Flushable” wipes combined with Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) and at times roots in sewer pipes and mains cause blockages and damage to private plumbing and City infrastructure.
The following is a list of items that should not be flushed down the sewer system. Do not flush these items:
This is not a complete list but provides examples and can be used as a quick reference when you are deciding whether to flush, toss, recycle or return an item. Download the Recycle Coach App to learn more about how to properly dispose of various materials.
“Flushable” Wipes may swirl down the toilet with ease; however they don't disintegrate and are creating serious problems as they try to work their way through the sewage system.
Some wipes may make it through the lift stations, eventually landing at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. However, most wipes and other materials are often the cause of sewer backups in City sewers, basements of homes and businesses.
In addition to causing backups, this also damages City equipment. Wastewater Treatment Plants are not designed to accept anything other than human waste and toilet paper. Wipes and other debris flushed down the sewer system become entangled in pumps and equipment within the Lift Stations and Wastewater Treatment Plant. These damaged pumps have to be replaced or repaired, which can increase maintenance costs for the Utility in turn costing rate payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.Unfortunately, although packaging may say wipes are “flushable” - in reality they should not be flushed at all.
Most “flushable” wipes are designed with fibers that take a long time to break down in water. For sewer systems to operate efficiently, the break down process needs to begin immediately. Labeled as a cleaner alternative to toilet paper, the wipes have been estimated to cost Canadian tax payers millions of dollars each year by clogging sewers.
At this time there is no standardized testing for these wipes to make sure they will break down in the sewer system and will not become tangled in lift station pumps or cause blockages in the sewers. With there being no current standard, wipes can claim to be “flushable” when in fact they should not be flushed at all.
What can I do to prevent these problems?
These costly problems can be avoided if we all become more mindful of what we are flushing down the sewer and a good start would be to stop the flushing of wipes.
Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG)
FOG can be comprised of animal fats, vegetable fats, oils and grease used to cook and prepare food. When any type of FOG is washed down the drain, it acts like glue inside the sewer pipes and mains.
What can I do to prevent these problems?
- Avoid pouring FOG down your drain, rather choose to dispose of FOG in the garbage.
- Wipe pans and dishes using paper towel and pour FOG (i.e. turkey fat, bacon grease etc.) into a disposable can or jar until cool.
- Dispose of cooled FOG and saturated paper towels in your household garbage.
- Review the City's Source Control Program page for more information regarding the City's effort to reduce FOG in the sewer system.
Tree Root Blockages
Tree roots can enter at joints, breaks or leaks in the sewer service or main line and cause blockages. If you suspect tree roots are causing sewer backup problems, contact a local plumber / drain cleaner to cut out the tree roots. Alternatively you can contact Environmental Utilities to cut out the tree roots, but please note that fees may apply.
Sewer Main Backup
On rare occasions, a blockage can occur in the City’s sanitary sewer main. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the sewer main can backup into homes through the cleanout. The rate at which the backup occurs can be slow or rapid but most always occurs without water usage. If you suspect a sewer main backup please contact Environmental Utilities at 403.529.8176 immediately.
- Disposal of Fats, Oils and Grease (YouTube)
- Think Before Flushing... FOG (PDF)
- Think Before Flushing... "Unflushables" (PDF)
- Think Before Flushing... Wipes (PDF)
- Do and Do Not: Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) (PDF)
- FOG Free Sewers (PDF)