Freezing fog may have hit parts of the North East already this month, but the risks from a different kind of FOG are being highlighted by sewer workers at Northumbrian Water ahead of Christmas.  

Fats, oils and grease – or FOG – from cooking can cause serious problems if poured down the sink, Even tipping left over gravy down the plug hole can add to such problems!


Failure to properly dispose of food waste such as turkey grease or cooking fats etc could result in blocked pipes and backed up drains, and see North East residents experience a brown Christmas, instead of a white one and to help people reduce the chances of blockages ruining Christmas.


As families across the region prepare to cook Christmas dinner this weekend, they are often unaware of the potential carnage that could be caused by the big wash up – as wastewater and the nasty things they thought they had seen the last of could make a disgusting return thanks to blocked pipes.


Clearing up from a big dinner can often involve the disposal of large volumes of fats, oils and grease. However, people who pour these down their sink could be unwittingly creating blockages that result in sewage backing up into homes or the environment.


Once in the pipes, this FOG can solidify and block pipes. A roast turkey alone can produce enough fat to cause a blockage in smaller pipes.


That could cause waste that people have flushed down the loo to come back through sinks, shower trays or toilets, ruining Christmas.


Simon Cyhanko, Head of Wastewater Networks at Northumbrian Water, which manages around 18,000 miles of sewer pipes in the North East, said: “The last thing anyone wants or needs is the festive season ruined by the contents of their toilet returning like the Ghost of Christmas Past because they put the wrong things into the sewer.


“Fats, oils and grease, which we call FOG, play a big part in causing blockages in the sewer network. When poured down the sink, they can cool and solidify and block the flow of everything else that’s in there. This forces waste backwards and it can surge out of manholes or back into homes.


“The fat from a cooked turkey alone can be enough to fill a Christmas pudding bowl and many of the pipes closest to homes are as narrow as four inches in diameter. So the potential for a blockage is huge, especially when you add in other unflushables, like wipes or sanitary products. It’s items like these that mix with the FOG and make for even bigger, nastier blockages.


“So, please, help yourselves avoid a nasty surprise. Let the fats, oils and grease cool, then scrape them into the bin. Don’t pour them down the sink. Likewise, with things like gravy, mopping it up with kitchen roll and then binning it can help reduce the chance of problems.


“And please, remember that the only things that should go down the loo are toilet paper, pee and poo. Anything else can cause or add to blockages and make this a Christmas that you will remember for all the wrong reasons.”


Northumbrian Water also runs a Bin the Wipe campaign to encourage people to make a simple change that could help to significantly reduce blockages in its network. It urges people not to flush wipes, which are the biggest contributor to blockages in its sewer network.