Watch what you dump down the drain

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

There are a lot of things that people drop down the sink or toilet that can wreak havoc on your sewer lines and the municipal sewer system.

Craig Miller is the interim operations and facilities manager and environmental superintendent for the Town of Fort Frances. Miller recommended the acronym F-O-G to help people remember things that shouldn’t go down the drain. FOG stands for fats, oils, and grease.

“A lot of people when they’re cooking, they tend to flush or rinse bacon fat down the sink, or the fat when they cook ground beef or things like that,” Miller said. “[A lot of people] think that it remains liquid and goes down the sewer. But what happens is as soon as it gets into your sewer line, it solidifies very quickly and starts to form a lining on the sewer pipe, and eventually, eventually leads to a plug that is very difficult to remove.”

According to, some of the things that shouldn’t be washed down the drain include sandwich spreads like mayonnaise, salad dressings, butter or margarine, and sauces or gravies that might have high oil content.

The website advises that any leftover FOG materials should be allowed to harden in pans and then scraped into the garbage or, if still liquid, poured into empty cans or milk cartons. Grease and fat should also be wiped from pots, pans or other dishes before rinsing.

Plumbing issues don’t just come from the kitchen either. People flush things down the toilet that aren’t meant for the sewage system as well.

“The other things that are very difficult, or can cause a lot of sewer problems are feminine hygiene products, and wipes,” Miller said. “Wipes are often labelled as flushable. I don’t really know what they’re implying …, but they don’t break down in the sewer system at all, and they can catch on the easiest little thing in your sewer. Then once they actually get into the sewage system, the collection system, they create all kinds of problems for us with our pumps, and other equipment.”

This can lead to sewer backups and has other negative impacts. Certain things, when flushed or dumped, will affect the municipal sewage plant as well as the sewer pipes leaving homes and even local waterways.

“Wipes and hygiene products cause all kinds of problems in our system,” Miller said. “Unused medications are bad for the environment, they should never be flushed. They can be returned to pharmacies, I believe, or disposed of at our hazardous waste days.”

Anyone concerned about what might have been dumped down their pipes can have a sewer scan done on their home by the Town of Fort Frances, and if there are blockages resulting in backups, the town will also unclog sewer pipes. There are fees for these services — during regular business hours, the town’s website says sewer scans are $218.10 per hour. The minimum rate for a sewer unblocking is $28.60 during normal business hours and gets higher for overtime or statutory holiday emergencies. These can be scheduled by calling public works at 274-9893.

If a backup does occur during off hours, you will need to call the town’s emergency after-hours line at 274-9516.

“In the event of a backup, the first thing people should do is limit their water usage,” Miller said. “They can call the public works office during the day, or we have an after hours line. A plumber can also help get the line unblocked. You really need mechanical help in order to free up the blockage usually.”

Some signs of a sewer backup that you should keep an eye out for include slow drains, bad smells coming from your drains, or one drain backing up into another.

It is also important to note that according to the Town of Fort Frances’s official Facebook page, homeowners are responsible for the water and sewer service pipes on their property that connect the home to the water and sewer services.

“Service line failures can be costly and while not typically covered by basic homeowners’ insurance, residents are encouraged to check with their current provider to find out what their coverage is in this area,” the town says.

The Town of Fort Frances has a partnership with Service Line Warranties of Canada which can offer extra insurance for homeowners to have peace of mind in the event of an issue with their lines. Homeowners in Fort Frances will be receiving information about this in the mail over the next little while, you can also look up for more information.