According to Tollette public works manager Andoval Williams, the list of items that can cause blockages and more serious problems in sewage systems is rather long and includes some items that may surprise some people.
Among items that he lists as potential problems are: coffee grounds, egg shells, stickers from produce, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, cat litter (even those brands that claim to be flushable), rags and condoms, sharp objects and petroleum products like automotive fluids, nail polish or remover, solvents or caustic chemicals. Prescription or over-the-counter medications are also a concern, as they can affect the bacteria that help break down sewage in treatment ponds.
Williams especially emphasizes the problem of oils, fats and cooking grease, which cools and congeals in the sewage pipes, restricting or blocking them quickly and being difficult to remove.
Mayor Terry Mounts of Dierks echoed Williams’s statement, saying, “We’ve seen diapers stop up our sewage grinder pumps a lot, and sometimes paper towels, but grease is our biggest problem. We just need people to do something else with it.”
Mineral Springs water and streets manager Jonathan Holden also agreed with those sentiments, having seen grease and diapers cause problems with the sewage system in his town as well.
According to the joint statement, the blockages that can be caused by flushing these items or pouring them down drains can cause sewer backups and overflows, which can lead not only to expensive and time consuming cleanups, but also to potential exposure to disease and pollution. Another immediate effect is an increase in costs for operating sewage systems, which in turn increase the cost of municipal water to customers.
According to the statement released, cooking grease can be recycled by companies that use the substance to make chemicals, but if no recycling is available the best option may be to collect the grease into a small container that can go out with the household garbage to a landfill.
The statement also reminds homeowners that private drainage systems must be cleaned out occasionally, a task that municipalities cannot perform if there is no approved clean out access at the front property line.