Multi-Unit Dwellings Responsibilities
One of the best aspects of living in an apartment is not having to do maintenance, so you may be thinking – Why do I care about what goes down the drain? Well, when you end up with sewage in your home, you will care.
Apartment buildings or any large building complex have pipe systems that are connected. This means that what you flush down the toilet or pour down the drain, goes into the same pipe as your neighbors. When a clog or buildup occurs in the pipes, a backup can occur in the system which may send sewage into not only your home or office, but also your neighbor’s.
Items that end up in the sanitary sewer system that can cause blockages, backups, and infrastructure damage include:
- Fats, oils and grease from cooking oils, dairy products, butter/margarine, sauces, lard and meat fat byproducts, general food waste, etc.
- Disposable diapers and baby wipes
- Facial wipes
- Disinfectant wipes
- Cleaning or polishing wipes
- Kitty litter
- Paper towels
- “Flushable” wipes
- Feminine hygiene products
Educate tenants with this poster in public areas.
a. Fats, Oils, and Grease
Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) commonly find their way into the sewer system through drains, toilets, and dishwashers. When FOG gets into the sewer lines, it solidifies and builds up, reducing the amount of flow through the pipes. FOG often gets poured down drains due to the ease with which the liquid can be poured while it is warm. This negatively impacts the home's drainage and the sanitary sewer system when the liquid cools and hardens, sticking to the pipes and building up over time. The buildup in the pipes results in restricted flow, leading to clogs that can cause a backup of sewage into homes and businesses.
b. Flushable Wipes
Cleaning wipes, baby wipes, and other wipes that are sometimes described as “disposable” or “flushable” generally do not dissolve when flushed. This is because wipes, facial tissue, cotton products, and other paper products are designed to remain in-tact when wet. Instead, they accumulate in sewer systems causing clogs and backups in pipes, pump stations, and treatment plants. Typically, these never actually dissolve, but get caught in pumps at lift stations and then cause backups.
Our region’s sewer systems and treatment plants were not designed to handle wipes. They clog pipes and pumps, and cost taxpayers and residents lots of money in additional maintenance costs.
c. How can you help?
Following these dos and don’ts will help you and your neighbors avoid expensive sewer backups, plumbing emergencies, and rate increases to cover sewer maintenance and repairs, while helping protect water quality in your community.
• Let oils cool and pour excess cooking oil into a heat-proof, sealable container and throw the container in the trash. Ensure that the container is sealed tightly before throwing it away.
o TIP: Continue adding grease and oil until the container is full, and the oil is solidified before throwing it away.
o TIP: Mix oil with an absorbent material such as coffee grounds, place in a tightly sealed container and dispose of in the trash.
• Scrape food scraps into the trash. Wipe excess oil and grease left on pans and dishes into the trash with a paper towel before washing.
• Use a mesh sink strainer to catch food items and dispose of scraps in the trash.
• Rinse dishes and pans with cold water before putting them in the dishwasher. Hot water melts the FOG off the dishes and into the sewer pipes. Later on in the sewer, the hot water cools and the FOG may clog the pipes.
• Minimize the use of garbage disposals or food grinders. These systems allow FOG to enter the sanitary sewer system from food scraps that should be placed in the trash.
• Use paper towels to clean up any spills of oils, grease, or food items containing FOG and throw the paper towels in the trash.
• Throw away items such as diapers, wipes, “flushable” wipes, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, rags or any solid waste that does not naturally break down, including garbage, plastic bags, and cigarette butts.
• Don’t pour cooking oil, pan drippings, bacon grease, salad dressings, or sauces down the sink or toilet, or into street gutters or storm drains.
• Don’t use cloth towels or rags to scrape plates or clean greasy or oily dishware. When you wash them, the grease will end up in the sewer.
• Don’t run water over dishes, pans, fryers, and griddles to wash oil and grease down the drain.
• Don't flush any type of wipe down the commode. Even flushable wipes only break down into smaller pieces. This gives FOG something to cling to and build up more quickly.
d. Educational Information:
e. Educational Videos:
Photograph courtesy of MPCA, January 20, 2016
Tip card: Com_Flush_tipcard.pdf (glwa.wpenginepowered.com)
Poster: Com_Flush_Poster.pdf (glwa.wpenginepowered.com)