January 23, 2020

Be Kind To Your Pipes! Common-Sense Tips To Avoid Sewer Backups

This photo is of a City jet hose used to clean the lines and when crews reel it back, the 'flushable' wipes hang up on the hose just like they do in the sewer lines. This photo is of a City jet hose used to clean the lines and when crews reel it back, the 'flushable' wipes hang up on the hose just like they do in the sewer lines. (City File Photo)




Flush only toilet paper and

avoid pouring 'FOG' down sink drains

RAPID CITY--When it comes to your abode, it matters what you put down your commode!

            And your kitchen sink. And your sewer vent pipe.

            In other words, 'Be kind to your pipes'!

            City officials indicate two of the most improperly-used areas of the home can be found in the bathroom and the kitchen: the toilet and the sink. And one of the most neglected items of the home is the sewer vent pipe.



            Many of the issues involving sewer main backups in Rapid City involve the flushing of products such as non-disposable and disposable wipes, rags, tampons and other heavy products.  Only toilet paper should be flushed down toilets, according to city officials.

            And when it comes to the kitchen sink, pouring fats, oils and grease (commonly termed as FOG) down the drain can clog sewer pipes, cause backups and overflows.  These products can cause a lot of problems and lead to very costly repairs for the homeowner and the City. A common example is pouring the grease from a frying pan down the kitchen sink.

            The Rapid City Utility Maintenance Office promotes 'No Wipes In The Pipes' and 'Fat-Free Sewers' among its educational efforts in the community. A few common-sense tips can avoid headaches, inconvenience and costly repairs.

            Rapid City Water Reclamation Superintendent Dave Van Cleave offers these helpful hints.

            "Toilet paper breaks down in water but heavier products do not degrade and can be the main cause for blockages that lead to sewer backups. Flushable wipes are flushable only because they fit into the toilet but they can be a major cause of backups," said Van Cleave. "Products other than toilet paper should be placed in the trash and not down the toilet.

            "And people don't realize the impact of pouring fats, oils and grease down the kitchen sink. It builds up in the drains and can ultimately clog sewer pipes, cause backups and overflows."

            Common items flushed down the toilet that can lead to blockages and backups include shop and paper towels, cleaning and baby wipes, sanitary napkins and cotton swabs, wrappers, cigarette butts and condoms.  Such items should be placed in the trash.

            Instead of pouring fats, oils and greases down sink drains, toilets or storm drains, city officials recommend pouring the liquids into a container, sealing and disposing of the container.  In addition, residents can wipe pots, pans and dishes with a dry paper towel before rinsing or washing.

            "Changing a few routines and habits can avoid costly repairs and cleanup costs," said Van Cleave.



            Van Cleave says homeowners should also pay close attention to a third pipe in their home: their sewer vent pipe.

            "The sewer vent pipe can freeze up, allowing sewer gas to enter the home and cause slow draining lines as well," said Van Cleave. "Homeowners want to make sure it doesn't drift over with snow or have a big frost build-up."

            To prevent the sewer vent pipe from drifting or frosting over, Van Cleave suggests clearing your roof of snow on a regular basis as excessive snow can block the vent's stack and cause freezing. A gurgling toilet may indicate a clogged or frozen vent stack.  Other suggestions include pouring warm water down rarely-used household drains during the winter season. This keeps water in the drain-waste-vent system's trap, preventing freezing.

            Homeowners can also keep their attic heated with a heat register vent that produces warm air flow. Van Cleave also suggests wrapping a foil-backed insulated sleeve or themostatically-controlled tape around the vent pipe in the attic. A plumber could also install a  copper 'T' or heat cord in the sewer vent.

            As part of informational efforts, the City's Utility Maintenance staff often places "No Wipes in the Pipes" and "Fat-Free Sewers" flyers on doors containing helpful hints on avoiding sewer backups and blockages.


Thank you,

Darrell W. Shoemaker | Communications Coordinator

T: 605.721.6686 | M: 605.939.8551

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W: www.rcgov.org

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