By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
The problem with gobs of gooey post-Thanksgiving grease is that once they enter drainpipes, they don’t stay gooey for long.
That grease can set up in sink drains and sewer pipes, turning the day after Thanksgiving into what plumbers around Wyoming and the nation call “Brown Friday.”
“It’s just that everybody thinks that everything can go down the drain,” independent plumber Shawn Haight of Gillette told Cowboy State Daily.
But it can’t.
He’s even seen the oily, runny remains of a Turkey Day feast end up in a home’s laundry drainage lines, creating a backwash of truly hideous byproduct.
“Let’s just say that lint and grease don’t mix very well,” he said.
Also, people really shouldn’t overestimate the capacity of their garbage disposals, Cory Kopp told Cowboy State Daily. He’s a master plumber and owner of Plumbing Masters in Casper.
“It’s not a trash-processing thing,” he said.
Black Friday Goes Brown
“Brown Friday” is widely recognized by plumbers across the country as their busiest day of the year, and it can a bane to many homeowners, according to realtor.com.
While many Americans stampede to stores to take advantage of Black Friday shopping deals, plumbers ready their tools and steel their nerves for a long line of clogged sinks and backed-up toilets.
Mercifully, the toilet end of things doesn’t seem to hit Wyoming too hard, said Haight, Kopp and Erin Lamb, spokeswoman for the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, which oversees the city’s sewage lines and wastewater treatment plants.
Haight and Kopp said most of their Brown Friday calls are for sink drain and garbage disposal drudgery, not toilet tempests.
And Cheyenne’s wastewater treatment plant hasn’t been hit with the darksome tsunamis that have plagued large metropolitan areas, Lamb said.
Even so, greasy cascades in the wake of gorging gatherings have caused gross backflows in some localized neighborhood networks, Lamb said. But the city can be thankful that, so far, there’s never been enough to overwhelm the main lines.
“Our operations and maintenance of main sewer lines keeps them clear,” Lamb said.
“If you see thousands of kitchens running sinks and garbage disposals with greasy, buttery, oily types of items, it’s going to start clogging lines up,” Lamb said. “If it’s something that’s going to solidify, like bacon grease, that’s just going to build up, and build up, and then start to catch things inside the pipes. And who knows what’s it going to catch?”
Kopp agreed, noting that even hot grease will cool quickly as it enters drains.
“It will solidify and acts just like glue for everything that comes down after it,” he said.
Running hot water down the drain along with or immediately after the grease doesn’t help, he added. All that does is only slightly delay the inevitable solidification.
Be Kind To Your Garbage Disposal
Trouble frequently starts when people start tossing things willy-nilly into garbage disposals, Haight said.
Some unfortunate emergency customers have been known to huck turkey bones, vegetable peelings and various other holiday debris into the maws of their disposals, thinking that the subsequent flick of a switch makes it all go away.
In reality, anything that’s too chunky or stringy will almost certainly lead to a clog, he said.
“Garbage disposals are really meant for just that last little bit of stuff that’s on your plate,” he said. “When you peel vegetables, throw the peelings into the trash. When you scrap big chunks off of cookware and plates, just throw it into the trash.”
Lamb said her office had already started putting out press releases and social media alerts warning people about F.O.G. – fats, oils and grease.
“We recommend that you pour these into a jar, allow them to solidify and then throw them out with your garbage. Don’t attempt to put them through a garbage disposal or pour them down your drains,” she said.
Kopp said he was gearing up for a busy Brown Friday. Haight said he planned to remain available for his regular customers, but is keeping his fingers crossed to to not get any unexpected emergencies.
“I can always hope I don’t get any calls,” he said.