Growing Polk County population causes more grease-related sewer blockages, officials say

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Grease, mayonnaise, rags, butter, sanitary wipes, shortening are just a few of the sickly things that leak down sewer lines.

At an increasing rate, the pipes in Polk County are clogging.

At the end of the week, an 18-inch pipe on North Florida Avenue between Aida Street and Griffin Road became so clogged that the town of Lakeland had to bypass the pipe to allow residents to continue to flush the toilet.

“It’s an area where there is a lot, we call them heavy flows with sewage water, so we made a bypass so we could have a workaround so people can still flush the toilet. and do their business, “said Kevin Cook, City of Lakeland Communications director.

The persistent rain posed a problem for crews trying to install a camera underground to make sure the pipe was unblocked.

Officials say clogs are caused by hot fats, oils and grease pouring directly into sinks.

Liquids harden when cooled and congeal, blocking the pipes and catching everything else flowing through the sewer pipes.

“When people do that, of course, it causes clogs and sometimes thousands of dollars in damage. If things are going up in your house, it’s unpleasant. It’s not clean water, ”Cook said.

On a larger scale, frozen fat can also block pump stations, affecting the county’s sewage system.

Source – Polk County Utilities Department.

“It’s definitely on the rise. With more dining establishments, they tend to add to that more than individuals. But in large housing estates, it’s not uncommon to see a build-up in the pipe, ”said Tamara Richardson, Polk County utility manager.

County policy requires food-related businesses to have grease traps on-site to prevent blockages.

The county regularly monitors and maintains the pipes to make sure they are leaking, Richardson said.

“When grease gets clogged in the pipes and in the lifting station, anything that might float tends to get stuck and tangled. These are very unpleasant situations, ”she said.

Officials say hygienic wipes labeled “disposable in the toilet” are not actually disposable and contribute to sewer blockages.

During the holiday season, residents can help by properly shedding fat.

“Keep a can, like maybe a can of coffee or a container, just keep storing them in there. You can put them in the freezer, then when the box is full, throw it all in the trash. It’s the easiest way, ”said Richardson.

The North Florida Avenue pipe has now been put through a 60-day preventative maintenance cycle to be cleaned more frequently due to the current blockage.

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