Grease poured down the drain causing problems in Charlottetown sewers

Don't put fat, oil or grease from cooking down the drain because it could make your toilet back up and it causes larger sewer problems, warn Charlottetown city officials.

Pipes clogged with fat can mean sewer back ups and costly cleanup, city officials say

It's best to put grease in the compost instead of down the drain, city officials say. (CBC)

Don't put fat, oil or grease from cooking down the drain because it could make your toilet back up and it causes larger sewer problems, warn Charlottetown city officials.

Balls of fat — or fatbergs — clogging pipes is an issue in Charlottetown, similar to other cities, says Richard MacEwen, manager of the water and sewer utility. 

He said it starts at kitchen sinks and causes clogs in sewer mains and goes all the way to the wastewater treatment plant where it becomes a problem in the pumps and equipment.

"That fat turns into a liquid in your frying pan, but it solidifies," MacEwen said. "That same solid material, it solidifies in your home pipes and out in our sewer network, as well."

Liquid fat will harden in pipes

"You think that it's a nice liquid when you're pouring it down the sink. You're maybe using hot water, but that hot water is going to cool off and those fat, oils, and greases are going to separate out."

On the top is a clear pipe in Charlottetown and below is a pipe with fat buildup. (City of Charlottetown)

MacEwen recommends putting fat in the compost by pouring it from the pan into a cereal box lined with paper.

MacEwen said blockages cost the city time and thousands of dollars to keep the fat out of the system and can cause a sewer backup in homes because other material can't flow out. 

Toilet backups 

"Everybody prefers to know that when they flush their toilet, those materials are going to make it out to the wastewater treatment plant."

Richard MacEwen, Charlottetown's manager of the water and sewer utility, says the effects of fat in the sewer system costs the city thousands of dollars per year. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

The city said it deals with about one grease related sewer problem per month where staff need to respond to assist customers with troubles in the main sewer line. The city also has an annual sewer flushing program and certain areas are looked at more often for maintenance. Equipment at the treatment plant is cleaned out weekly because of issues related to fat, oils and grease.

Can affect a whole area

MacEwen said a blockage can affect a whole area at once if the sewer main is clogged, meaning all of the customers from that point upstream are not able to flush their toilets and get rid of their wastewater. In that situation, a crew would be dispatched to remove the material. 

The city said people are responsible for managing blockages they may experience in their own sewer laterals. 


Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.