Fats, oils and grease can clog lines easily.
ANCHORAGE - It takes a lot of work to keep sewer lines clean. Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility (AWWU) only has four crews to maintain more than 700 miles of line.
“You can climb into a manhole and use a mirror and a light and see about 30 or 40 feet up a sewer line, but typically our manholes are 300 to 500 feet between manholes,” said Fred Brown, the sewer and line-cleaning foreman.
A robotic camera helps them find the trouble spots farther up the line. It moves through to show crews what they’re working with.
“Most of the time we can see a section of pipe that needs to be cleaned, and how thorough we cleaned it and what type of head we need to clean the line,” said CCTV operator Monty Hubble.
Brown said most lines are pretty clean but there are others around town that are not. The camera shows just how gunked up lines can get from FOG: fats, oils and grease.
“The biggest problem is it creates backup in the line, and unfortunately when we have backups more often it will come up in someone’s residence rather than coming out of a manhole in the street,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, a homeowner has to deal with that.”
To combat the buildup, they send in high-pressured hoses. Most lines are cleaned every five to seven years. There are a few on an “accelerated” schedule though, some which need a scrubbing once a month.
“It’s very frustrating for our crews, because what happens is we end up spending time on these lines that have to be acceleratedly cleaned and that takes away from the time we have for our general-line cleaning and for doing our other maintenance work that needs to be done,” Brown explained.
The best way to prevent FOG from ending up in the lines is to take precautions in the kitchen:
- Store bacon grease or other oils in an empty container and throw it in the garbage.
- Wipe off greasy pans before washing them.
- Condiments, like ketchup and mustard, also have a high amount of fat. Don’t put leftovers down the drain.
Brown said for many people dumping fats down the drain is out of sight, out of mind. He warns people to be aware that a backed up line can be messy and costly. It’s easier to prevent that if you keep FOG out of the drain.