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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Ideas for a Cleaner Environment
Published monthly by the NH Department of Environmental Services Watershed Assistance Program, Concord, NH (603) 271-7889

November, 2008

Is the Plumber Invited to your Thanksgiving Dinner?

Who among us doesn't love to feast on the delicious turkey and gravy, hams and yams as part of the elaborate dinners with all the trimmings during the holiday season? But while preparing these annual family rituals, we should be aware of what to do with all the resulting fats, oils and grease referred to as FOG. If unduly poured down the kitchen drain, fats, oils and grease could clog your plumbing or cause your septic system to fail or back-up. None of us want to be faced with this type of heartburn during the holidays. Thankfully these types of problems may be prevented by following some simple steps that even your distant aunt from Bar Harbor can understand and follow.

The problem caused by the FOG from meat, sauces, baking goods, cooking oil, lard, margarine, shortening and butter begins when these messy, greasy residues are washed down the kitchen sink. The wash water cools the FOG, allowing these wastes to solidify in the pipes. Over time the FOG can build up, restricting flow in the pipes. Eventually this restriction of flow can cause a back-up in your pipes resulting in flooding of your basement or home. FOG build up is also a problem for municipal wastewater systems to treat and remove from sewer lines.

The FOG can even lead to a failure of your septic system because the FOG floats at the top of the wastewater in your septic tanks and clogs the pipes leading to the leach field. The backed-up plumbing and failed sewer lines or septic systems can cause property damage, health hazards and environmental problems; not to mention the expense and inconvenience of correcting the problems. Septic systems can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Such an expense at this time of year would certainly put a crimp in anyone's holiday budget.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services encourages people to protect their plumbing as well as their sewer or septic system by properly disposing of FOG. Here are some simple tips:

  • Never pour oil or grease into a drain or toilet.
  • Scrape grease and food waste from plates, pots, pans, grills and kitchen utensils and put it into a trash can.
  • Small amounts of cooking oil, such as meat drippings, can be soaked up with a paper towel and thrown into the trash.
  • Put baskets and strainers in sinks to catch food scraps.
  • Don't put grease or meats in garbage disposals.
  • Let grease solidify in a container (preferably a sturdy closed-lid container, like a coffee can) before putting it into the trash.
  • Mix larger amounts of cooking oil with an absorbent material like sawdust or kitty litter before putting in the garbage. Dispose of large amounts by dividing it over several collection days.
  • Check to see if your community has a waste vegetable oil collection program.

By being aware of the possible dangers of FOG to your home's plumbing and septic system, and being armed with these simple tips on how best to manage FOG, you can rest a little easier this holiday season, knowing that your Currier & Ives picture perfect holiday won't be ruined by an emergency call to the plumber.

For more environmental tips, visit the N.H. Department of Environmental Services website or call (603) 271-3503. For more information on FOG management, please contact Ray Gordon with the NHDES Wastewater Engineering Bureau at

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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