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No 'fatbergs' in Kelowna sewers but old cooking grease and baby wipes still causing problems

A fat glob in a Kelowna sewer.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Kelowna
October 11, 2017 - 4:45 PM

KELOWNA - Imagine all the things you have ever flushed down your toilet or washed down the kitchen sink. Now imagine all the things other people might have flushed and you get a picture of what can build up in Kelowna’s sanitary sewers.

While Kelowna has nothing on the massive ‘fatbergs’ — that plague the sewers of some of the world’s biggest cities, water quality supervisor Ed Hoppe says grease and oils poured down local drains can still cause big problems.

“The problem is grease poured down the drain that clings to piping and starts to accumulate,” Hoppe says.

“Anything else that comes along, disposable wipes, hygiene products, tend to cling together and form these globs which stick to bends in the pipes.”

Sanitary sewers in areas where there are lots of restaurants such as around Orchard Park Mall are known hotspots, Hoppe says, despite requirements for commercial establishments to employ grease traps.

Residential sanitary sewers can also develop buildups when individual homeowners pour cooking grease down their kitchen sinks, however there is no such grease trap equivalent for residential homes.

“They may not be putting a lot of grease down the drain but over time it can develop into a bigger issue,” Hoppe says.

Busting up fat globs — city crews use a rotary chain flail device — costs the city about $60,000 a year and requires constant vigilance for new build-ups.

Hoppe says he stays ahead of them by tracking hotspots and adding their location to a routine maintenance schedule.

The city has just finished enhanced inspection of commercial establishments in the downtown core, Hoppe says, and is considering a program where the city would give out free grease collection tubs for homeowners to gather excess grease and cooking oils.

“The idea is that you keep it in your freezer and once it’s full, it can be disposed of through recycling or in the regular garbage,” he says.

While Kelowna has a bylaw that forbids the practice, Hoppe says it doesn’t have a set fine attached to the offense because it is so hard to catch someone actually pouring something down their drain.

“We try to go the educational route instead,” he adds.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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