JANESVILLE

It could rank as one of the greasiest public service announcements to ever come out of the halls of Janesville city government.

But the city’s latest public awareness campaign, “Cease the Grease,” and some free swag designed to help residents do just that, are an attempt by the water department to cut down on an insidious scourge.

That scourge is grease buildup in sewers, caused by people dumping cooking grease and food-related oils in their sinks.

The buildup can clog residents’ own drains and even block their sewer pipes, a city water official said.

The city is giving away plastic covers that affix to a metal soup or vegetable can to seal up grease drippings. The free covers are available at the water department and city clerk’s office.

People can use the lids to turn cans into sealed receptacles to collect cooking grease. They can store the cans in the fridge, and when they’re full of congealed grease, they can throw the cans in the garbage—instead of in the sink.

Craig Thiesenhusen, city water superintendent, says resident-generated grease buildup in sinks is a leading cause of sewer backups that can cause costly headaches for both homeowners and the city.

“Some homeowners are kind of unaware as to what should and shouldn’t go down the drain. First thing that shouldn’t go down the drain? Grease,” Thiesenhusen said.

A single call for a city crew to investigate a sewer main with a sewer camera can cost the city $200, Thiesenhusen indicated. That doesn’t include what it could cost the resident or the city to have a clog or backup fixed, depending on whose property it’s located.

Thiesenhusen said sewer backups can happen for any number of reasons. Often it’s a combination of reasons, including tree roots blocking laterals or people flushing items not intended to go in a toilet.

But one culprit—people dumping cooking grease or oily foods such as mayonnaise and dressings down their drains—is totally avoidable.

Just don’t dump food grease down the sink.

“I can show you lots of videos of these drains,” Thiesenhusen said.

Thanks, Craig, but a PSA video that JATV produced for the city’s website as part of its “Cease the Grease” campaign might offer enough of a glimpse.

The video shows sewer camera footage of a typical residential sewer lateral as it becomes clogged with solidified cooking grease (and other stuff that we don’t necessarily want to identify).

That’s where the city giving away free plastic “Cease the Grease” lids comes in. Thiesenhusen said it’s part education, part mobilization of people “to help assist us in our maintenance.”

“It’s to keep (city) costs down. That’s what we’re asking,” he said. “Even if it helps (eliminate) 10 percent of problems, that’s 10 percent of help we didn’t have before.”

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