Grease is Clogging the Sewers in Charlottetown

In Prince Edward Island’s Charlottetown, city officials are battling a messy problem: fat-clogged pipes. Grease and fat build-up in the city’s pipes are causing sewer backups and expensive cleanups.

Charlottetown officials are asking residents not to pour oil, fat or grease down the drain. The habit can cause major sewer problems in the future, including toilet backups.

The problem isn’t unique to the city. In London, crews worked diligently to unblock a section of the city’s old sewer system, which was clogged by a 130-ton mass of grease, fat and sanitary products.

Officials in Charlottetown say the problem starts with clogs in sewer mains and goes all the way to wastewater treatment plants, where it affects the pumps and equipment.

“That fat turns into a liquid in your frying pan, but it solidifies,” says Richard MacEwen, manager of the local water and sewer company. “That same solid material, it solidifies in your home pipes and out in our sewer network, as well.”

He says even when pouring hot water down the drain, the water eventually cools and the fats solidify.

Officials say that they deal with one grease-related sewer issue each month. Charlottetown has an annual flushing program to help tackle the issue, but residents can also use hydrojetting services to clean their pipes and further help reduce clogs.

“Hydrojetting is an environmentally friendly option to clean your home or business sewer drain pipes using high pressure water,” says SPT Pipe, a sewer repair company with locations in Ontario. “A high-pressure hose with a nozzle connected to a machine produces a powerful stream of water that clears grease, hair, mineral buildup, and other debris that has been forced down the drain. This service allows for your drainage pipes to be serviced and fixed.”

Some of the city’s sewer mains are more than 70 years old, and many have developed cracks from tree roots. Fat clogs are exacerbating the problem, and blockages can affect an entire area at once, which means that all customers from that point upstream are unable to flush their toilets or get rid of wastewater.

When this happens, crews are sent out to remove the material.

Charlottetown had plans to spend $3 million on rehabilitating the city sewer mains this winter. The city used trenchless technology, which allowed them to avoid having to dig up roads and cause more traffic delays.

The cured-in-place method, or CIPP, method starts with a camera inspection. The camera feedback is used to perform calculations and measurements. Technicians then pull a resin-coated felt tube into the sewer, and inflate the tube using water or air. The tube then hardens, sealing up cracks and damages in the process.

CIPP can add up to 50 years to the pipe’s lifespan.

After all of this is complete, technicians send in another robot to cut out holes for connections to homes. All of this is done without having to dig up local roads.

The repairs, which are taking place in the Brighton and Parkdale areas, are expected to be completed in July 2018.

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