Thanksgiving grease cooks up plumbing disasters

Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:08am EST
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Thanksgiving is a royal pain in the U.S. drain.

Thanksgiving means turkey dinners, family gatherings and football. For household drains and aging sewers across the United States, it means a lot of grease going down the pipes - and into the sewers.

For some harried cooks, the simplest way to get rid of fat from turkeys, bacon and roasts is down the kitchen drain. There it congeals, clogging the pipe and trapping food scraps until the only solution is to call the plumber.

"The day after Thanksgiving is the perfect storm for us," said Paul Abrams, a spokesman for Roto Rooter, the biggest U.S. plumbing and drain cleaning service. "We have all hands on deck."

The number of calls to the company's 7,000 plumbers and drain experts that day jumps 50 percent over a normal Friday. Calls go up by a fifth over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, Abrams said.

Thanksgiving is especially stressful for household drains.

Cooks, sometimes inexperienced, overload garbage disposals with potato peelings, pumpkin pulp and other food waste. They fail to use enough water to flush them down the pipes, then put cooking grease and oil in the mix.

"Before you know it, they've sent a large slug of semi-solid material down, and it just stops," said Chuck White, vice president of technical services at the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association, an industry group.   Continued...

A volunteer carves a deep fried turkey at a Thanksgiving dinner cooked and served by volunteers in the Staten Island borough of New York November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer