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Why turkey grease shouldn’t go down the drain

As broadcast by KEYE-TV, CBS Austin, November 21, 2019.

Why turkey grease shouldn’t go down the drain

If you want to avoid an emergency call to a plumber this Thanksgiving, don’t pour your turkey grease down the drain.

“That’s probably our biggest time for grease,” said Earl Foster, General Manager at the Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD).

Too much Thanksgiving turkey grease ends up in public sewer systems. LMUD workers just pulled a giant gross glob out of a lift station.

“It’s in the thousands of dollars every time we get a pump truck out here and skim them off,” said Foster.

LMUD has 22 lift stations and after Thanksgiving they’re all expected to be covered with greasy gunk.

“People have garbage disposals and it’s almost like that’s just a free dumping ground for them,” said Foster.

It takes three to six gallons of cooking oil to fry a typical turkey. On Wednesday, a few large containers were dropped off at Austin Resource Recovery to be recycled. But too often the grease and oil are poured down the drain, along with the Thanksgiving scraps.

“All of it adds up over time,” said Jay Porter, Environmental Conservation Division Manager with Austin Water. “Even food scraps that go down the garbage disposal generate grease.”

Austin Water has spent millions unclogging sewer lines, but homeowners must pay if the grease and oil get stuck in pipes on their property.

“It’s a costly repair,” said Porter.

On average homeowners can expect to pay a plumber $300 to unclog a drain. The price goes up to $500 if the plumber uses a hydro-jetting system to break apart the grease. If the clogged pipe must be repaired or replaced it will cost a minimum of $1,000 and probably much more.

Recycling Thanksgiving oil and grease is the cheap alternative.

“We get about 1600 gallons a year and that is turned into biodiesel for use in fleet vehicles,” said Andy Dawson with Austin Resource Recovery.

Homeowners who can’t recycle still have no reason to pour the stuff down the drain.

“If you have a real small amount you can take a used food can, like green beans or whatever, and stick in that can, put it in a Ziploc bag and throw it in the trash,” said Dawson.

Every drop adds up, so experts warn not to let the grease from your feast make this a holiday you don’t want to remember.

By Bettie Cross