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MADISON, WI – Many people are preparing for a busy cooking season, starting with Thanksgiving this week. City Engineering would like to remind everyone to avoid putting grease, fats and oils down the drain, which impacts the City’s sanitary sewer system and homeowners’ private lateral or pipe.

The sanitary sewer system is the pipe system that carries waste and water from resident homes and drains through service laterals, or pipes, to the main sewer pipe, which then moves waste to the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Fats, oils and grease, or FOG, is the term used to describe materials that when dumped down the drain into the sanitary sewer system, they create a hard layer of material that clogs service laterals and main lines. Service laterals are the pipes that stem off of the main sewer line to a home.

FOG sticks to the walls of the pipe and can eventually build up and clog the pipe causing sewage to flow backwards.

FOG can cause blockages in the sewer pipes causing sewage to flow out of manholes into streets, creeks and lakes, or into private properties.

Engineering works year round to maintain the City’s sanitary sewer system with a proactive preventative maintenance approach.

Responsibility Reminder

When FOG causes clogs, the financial responsibility to clean or fix depends on where the clog occurs. There are two sections residents should learn about. The City maintains the public portion, which falls within the right-of-way, and often extends into the homeowner’s yard. The homeowner is responsible for the private portion, which begins from point the private pipe connects to the public pipe, then, into the home.

If homeowners follow good preventative maintenance, especially with FOG, chances of backups are reduced. Learn more about homeowner responsibility on the City of Madison Engineering Division website.

Ways homeowners can prevent backups:

  • Reduce amount of food placed down the drain of kitchen sinks and dishwashers. Throw excess food in the trashcan as much as possible. Use dishwasher and sink drainers to capture solid material.
  • Maintain grease traps and grease interceptors frequently.
  • Limit the use of garbage disposals in favor of disposing of organic material in trashcans.
  • Make sure fryer oil is disposed of in a recycling barrel.

If you experience a sanitary sewer backup, call the City of Madison Engineering Division Operations Section at 608-266-4430.