Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

Festive fat swells clean-up bill

Christmas dinner
Festive cooking fat contributes to a UK clean-up bill of 15m

Cooking fat poured down the drains of homes and businesses over the festive period contributes to a 15m clean-up bill for UK public water companies.

Scottish Water has renewed appeals to the public to collect and then bin cooled oil and fat after systems were clogged in the Loch Ness area.

In the summer, workers dug out football-sized chunks of solidified material from a pump station in Thurso.

Scottish Water said more than half of blocked drains were caused by fat.

A spokesman said: "Half the time we are called out to resolve a choke that is causing pollution or flooding, it turns out to be caused by fat.

"We don't have a figure for how much it costs us but across the UK the water industry is estimated to be spending 15m a year dealing with it."

This can cause blockages, leading to sewage backing up into people's homes or onto pavements
Scottish Water team manager

The cost to Scottish Water to clear out a clogged up pumping station is about 20,000.

The spokesman said: "That would chew up several days, diverting staff from other work they could be doing for the benefit of customers."

It is an offence under the Sewerage Scotland Act 1968 to dispose of fat down the sink or drain.

Catering establishments are recommended to have a fat trap installed. In other countries it is a legal obligation to have one fitted but not in this country.

While the festive season can be bad for the practice, the problem hits a peak in the summer.

Nairn in the Highlands was identified as one of the big trouble spots.

The spokesman said: "Earlier this year we discovered the main sewer that runs along the east bank of the river from Merryton Bridge was struggling to cope.

"It was causing spillages, flooding the footpath. A camera investigation showed that the pipe's 450mm diameter had been reduced by half by a build up of fat.

"Also this year we have been digging out chunks of fat the size of footballs from our pumping station at Thurso harbour. Obviously Thurso is famed for its surfing so any spillages there would be particularly embarrassing for the town."

'Serious drain'

At the start of December, solidified fat was found in sewers serving communities around Loch Ness.

John Robins, Scottish Water's team manager for the Inverness area, said at the time: "This can cause blockages, leading to sewage backing up into people's homes or onto pavements.

"Thankfully this hasn't happened yet at Drumnadrochit or Lewiston but it has happened in other Highland communities such as Nairn and Aviemore where people have put grease down the drains.

"It's illegal to dispose of fat this way and it can be disastrous for the environment. It is also a serious drain on our resources."

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