British Columbia

Richmond sewers like 'blocked arteries' with grease buildup

Grease begone! Metro Vancouver has launched a campaign to save Richmond's sewer pipes by educating people who put grease and other items down the drain.

Over time, engineer says grease hardens into concrete-like substance plugging pipes and shortening their life

Grease blockage on Lansdowne Road. Metro Vancouver engineer Devin Kiyonaga says over time, grease in drains hardens into a concrete-like substance that can damage infrastructure like pipes and plumbing. (City of Richmond)

Metro Vancouver is stepping up the fight to prolong the life of the region's sewer pipes by educating people who dump grease, fats and oil down the drain.

Devin Kiyonaga, a project engineer for liquid waste services at Metro Vancouver, said while grease in the pipes is a region-wide problem, it's specifically targeting Richmond.

"Richmond probably has some of the worst issues, because they're so flat. You don't have a lot of flow, it's slow moving. There's also a lot of cooking with oils in that area," he explained.

While dumping grease down the drain can cause problems for individual homeowners, it can also expand out into the larger sewer system.

In fact, Metro Vancouver spends $2 million every year in the region to repair damage caused by grease.

"The analogy used is kind of like a blocked artery ... Over time, the grease itself hardens like concrete. Those chunks of hardened grease can fall off into the pipe and it can actually damage equipment," Kiyonaga said.

Grease forms into 'fatbergs'

It's not just the mere presence of grease that's the problem.

Kiyonaga explained the grease acts like a glue that binds together things like disposable wipes, dental floss, hair and garbage and can create larger balls and further clog pipes.

A bus-sized 14-tonne lump of fat and baby wipes — known as fatberg — was discovered in London.

The campaign is a good reminder that in addition to grease, fats and oils, disposal wipes should not be flushed down the toilet, he added.

Wipe it, green bin it

Kiyonaga said that people should properly dispose of fats and grease by collecting the fat in a bowl or scraping it from the pan directly into your food compost green bin.

A new Metro Vancouver campaign is telling Richmond residents to wipe and green bin their grease instead of pouring it down the drain. (Metro Vancouver)

With larger quantities of grease — like deep fryer oil — people should store the oil in a container and drop it off at a recycling transfer station, such as the Richmond Recycling Depot.

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled New anti-grease dumping campaign takes aim at Richmond