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Keep Sewers Clog Free

Washing food, oil and grease down your drain and disposal can lead to expensive and messy sewer backups. Keeping sewer pipes clean and operational avoids frustrating and unpleasant plumbing clogs, protects the ocean, safeguards public health and the environment, and prevents expensive plumbing repairs. Maintaining the residence sewer pipes is easy to do (video).

Fat, oil and grease – the number one problem

Food and grease do not disappear after going down the drain – they build up in sewer pipes and can cause serious damage to homes. Only water should go down the drain, food and grease should not. Home garbage disposals do not keep grease out the plumbing system and detergents only temporarily cut grease. Grease congeals further down the pipe, ground up food builds up and a clog forms.

Surprising other culprits

Invasion of tree and shrub roots into sewer pipes cause nearly half of the city’s pipe overflows each year. Roots search for water and nutrients and can enter pipes through small cracks. Once in the pipe, they can grow rapidly and cut off sewer flow, causing backups into the home or overflows outside of the home.

Disposable wipes, even flushable ones, can also clog sewer lines. Throw wipes and towelettes as well as dental floss, feminine hygiene products and paper towels in the trash, and not in toilets.

 

Please send your comments on how the city is operating and maintaining the sewer system to wastewater@carlsbadca.gov or call 760-438-2722.

Follow these simple steps to avoid clogs:

Inside the home

  • Scrape food, sauces and oils from plates and pans and into the trash. Trashcan and plate image
  • Put a strainer in the sink drain and empty solids into the trash. 
  • Use your garbage disposal sparingly and do not rely on grease cutting detergents to wash away grease. 
  • Wipe cooking pan residue with a paper towel and throw it in the trash. 
  • Collect small amount of fat, oil and grease into a plastic container such as a milk jug or coffee can or mix with kitty litter, coffee grounds, or shredded newspaper and throw it in the trash. 
  • Dispose of larger amounts of used cooking oil responsibly and for free. Call Waste Management at 760-929-9400 or PSC at 800-714-1195 for more information.
  • Throw disposable wipes, dental floss, feminine hygiene products and paper towels in the trash and not in toilets.

Outside the home

Costly repairs can also be avoided with regular sewer lateral cleaning. Ideally, a lateral should be professionally cleaned once a year to remove built up debris. Inspections using a small camera should be conducted by a professional  plumber every three to five years to ensure pipe integrity.

When planting trees and bushes outside, take care to plant them far enough from the lateral that their roots will not interfere with the pipe. This distance will vary depending on the type of plant and the surrounding soil conditions. Contact an arborist or landscaping specialist to determine the best planting distances.

Can I put food, fat, oil and grease down a garbage disposal?

Food should be thrown in the trash. Ideally only water should go down the drain. The best way to dispose of fat, oil and grease is to put the materials in a leak-proof container, like a milk carton, and put it in the trash. Larger amounts of used cooking oil can be disposed of for free through a household hazardous waste facility. Call Waste Management at 760-929-9400 or PCS at 800-714-1195 for more information.

What if I use a garbage disposal or dishwashing detergent?

Home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of the plumbing system and detergents only temporarily cut grease. Fat, oil and grease eventually attach to the walls of sewer pipes like a clogged artery. The less food products washed down the drain, the better it is for sewer pipes.

What is considered a fat, oil or grease product?

Fat, oil and grease are byproducts of cooking and come from meat fats, lard, oil, butter, margarine, food scraps, sauces and dairy products. Some examples are peanut butter, bacon drippings, salad dressing and mashed potatoes. If washed down the sink and disposal, these products can build up over time, block the pipe and cause a sewer overflow.

Are foods like eggs shells, carrot peels and coffee grounds safe/okay to put in a dishwasher or through the garbage disposal?

In general no food products should go down the drain or dish washer, including egg shells, carrot peels and coffee grounds. Even food ground up in the garbage disposal can stick to grease build up in pipes making clogs bigger.

What other items should not be disposed of down the sewer?

General household items can cause serious pipe clogs. Some items that cause problems are disposable wipes (even flushable ones), dental floss, paper towels and feminine hygiene products. These products should be disposed of in the trash and not in sinks or toilets.

What can happen as a result of a sewer pipe blockage?

When the pipe gets clogged, raw sewage can back up into your home through the toilet, sink and shower drains. Not only is this smelly and messy, it is also unsafe. Coming into contact with bacteria and other contaminants in raw sewage poses a serious threat to the health of you and your family. You could also be responsible for paying for repairs to the pipe and the damage caused.

Who has to pay for repairing clogged sewer pipes that run from my condo/apartment to the street?

The property owner and homeowner associations are responsible for the sewer pipe from their homes to the street, called a lateral. Click here to learn more about sewer laterals.

How often should residents have their sewer pipes cleaned?

The pipe from your home to the street, called a lateral, should be professionally cleaned each year to remove pipe build up. Ideally, laterals should also be televised every three to five years to inspect the integrity of the pipe.

What can happen if a tree or shrub is planted over a sewer pipe?

The invasion of tree and shrub roots into sewer pipes cause nearly half of the city’s pipe overflows each year. Homeowners should avoid planting trees and large shrubs over or near sewer pipes. The plant will seek the water and nutrients in the pipe and its roots will enter through small cracks causing big problems.

Contact Information

To report sewer smells, leaks and spills, dial 760-438-2722 during regular business hours or dial 760-931-2197 for after hours reporting.

General Information

Business hours
Monday – Friday
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.