With the cold weather approaching and the holiday season upon us, sanitary sewer backups tend to be more common.

As families get together and share in the traditional holiday meals—many of which contain meats, butter, cooking oils, dressings and gravies—the Lake County Department of Utilities (LCDU) sees an increased number of sanitary sewer backups. In 2019, 82% of all wastewater backups reported to the LCDU were based upon blockages within customer’s private laterals.  Many of these backups can be minimized and prevented by taking simple steps when meal clean-up begins. The most important and simple action to take is avoid putting  fats, oils and grease—commonly known as FOG—down the kitchen drain or garbage disposal.

These substances may initially be warm or in liquid form, but they quickly harden once mixed with cold water and the winter temperatures of outdoor pipes.  The harden FOG restricts and blocks pipes, causing unwanted clogs in the sanitary sewer system.  The good news is there are some very simple tips that can be taken to minimize potential problems.

  1. Allow FOG to cool and harden, and then place in the trash instead of down the drain.
  2. Although many residents place left over food scraps in the garbage disposal, even grounded up particles—bones, vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells, potato peels, seeds, fruit stickers and pasta—can cause clogs. Some of these items are better placed in the trash or in an outdoor compost area to help your spring flower beds.
  3. Remind your guests to avoid flushing certain items that always make their way into the toilet. Such items include wipes, diapers, toys, Kleenex tissues, paper towels and feminine products.  These items do not break down in water and may get lodged in pipes, causing immediate backups throughout the sanitary sewer system also including your private lateral.

The private lateral, the part of the drainage network between your home and the public sewer main, is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. These tips will not only help keep your lateral working properly during your holiday gatherings, but they will minimize potential problems associated with expensive and unpleasant cleanup that often have to be paid by the homeowner.

SOURCE: The Lake County Ohio Department of Utilities. Follow them on Twitter.