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Vantage Point: 'Tis the season to protect your pipes! Know the 3 Cs!

It's November and tomorrow is Thanksgiving, when millions of people across the country and the National Capital Region will sit down for a holiday dinner with family and friends. Some of the most popular foods to eat on Thanksgiving are turkey, ham, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie. When dinner is over, it's time for the unenviable task of cleaning up, which among other things means having to dispose of food scraps, meat drippings, gravy, sauces, and so forth. For those of you with a garbage disposal, I'm willing to bet a lot those things end up there and going down the drain. Back to this in a minute...

November is also Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month (CISR Month). An entire month focused on protection of infrastructure like the electric grid, telecommunications systems, highways, airports, acute care hospitals, and my favorite - water and wastewater systems. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), $1 trillion dollars is needed over the next 20 years just to repair and replace existing water infrastructure. This estimate doesn't include investments in new water infrastructure or investments to improve resiliency to threats from natural disasters or intentional attacks. So, what's the connection between Thanksgiving dinner and the protection of water infrastructure?

What if I were to tell you that when you dispose of fats, oils, grease and other materials down the drain, you can harm lifeline water infrastructure by contributing to the creation of "fatbergs". Never heard of a fatberg? It is a term usedby those in the water industry to describe a huge blob of insoluble fats, oils and grease combined with non-flushable and "flushable" wipes and other non-flushable items that build up in sewer pipes. Fatbergs block pipes, cause sewer overflow s, and according to NACWA cost U.S. utilities an estimated $1 billion annually. If you want to see a fatberg, just Google it and see what you find.

Want to do your part during CISR Month to help protect our country's water and wastewater systems (and the plumbing in your own house)? It's really easy - just remember the 3 Cs of sink safety: Cool, Contain, Can/Compost

  1. Cool: Let the grease cooland solidify in your cooking pot/pan.

  2. Contain: Scrape fats, oil and grease (FOG) and excess food scraps into a secure, sealable conta iner like a peanut butter jar. Before washing, wipe down pots and pans with a paper towel.

  3. Can/Compost: Throw the full container of FOG and your paper towel into a trashcan. If possible in your home, start composting food and vegetable scraps instead (don't compost grease).

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and thanks for everything you do to help keep our country safe, including remembering the 3 Cs of sink safety.

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