Warning over common household mistake causing 'nightmare' for Aussies

An image shared by Sydney Water shows exactly why you should think twice before putting foreign liquids or objects down the drain.

Inset: Water pipe clogged with hardened cooking fat and grease. Main: Ariel view of newly constructed homes with black roofs in Sydney.
Putting the wrong things down the sink or drain can cause major issues for homeowners and renters. Source: Getty/Sydney Water

Aussies are being warned to think carefully about what they pour down their drains, with a confronting image showing what can happen when pipes get clogged.

Along with flushing wet wipes down toilets, one of the biggest mistakes people make is discarding cooking oil down the sink — and it can also be a "health and environmental nightmare," Sydney Water recently warned.

Grease, fats and oils, along with hair, cotton buds and wet wipes, are a major risk to our homes and waterways, Ian Wright from Western Sydney University previously told Yahoo. They contribute to $15-20 million dollar problem each year in NSW alone, but it's a problem felt nationwide.

An image shared by Sydney Water on Facebook last week shows exactly what can happen when oil is tipped down the sink, and not thrown out correctly into the garden or bin. Explaining why fats, oils and grease can be problematic, the organisation said: "When they hit the cool water in your wastewater pipes, they harden".

"They then combine with other waste like wet wipes to form hard blockages known as 'fatbergs'," they continued alongside an image showing grease build up inside a blocked pipe. "These blockages can cause overflows which can be a health and environmental nightmare, with wastewater backing up and overflowing into homes, backyards and local waterways".

What’s more, residents could be looking at an expensive plumbing bill to fix a blocked drain.

A pipe clogged with thick fats, oil and grease.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is discarding cooking oil down the sink, and it can also be a "health and environmental nightmare," Sydney Water recently warned. Source: Sydney Water

A 'fatberg' refers to the often enormous blockage pulled from our drains which is usually made up of foreign items that should never enter the waterways. Sydney Water says hundreds of tonnes of unwanted bathroom products and kitchen waste enter our waterways and our wastewater system each year, at huge cost to customers and the environment.

To the average person, putting the wrong thing down the sink or toilet could "jeopardise public health in your area" Wright warned.

"The sewer in your street could block and kids walking to school could walk through a puddle and not realise that’s actually raw sewage," he explained. "Raw sewage is infectious and that’s the really, really dangerous thing."

To avoid this happening at your home, Sydney Water warned residents to:

  • Scrape food leftovers into the bin or compost.

  • Wipe greasy pans and dishes with a paper towel before washing up.

  • Pour used oil or fatty liquids (like old milk) into a container and put it in the bin.

  • Use a sink strainer to catch small pieces of food.

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