Happy Greasemas! What we Flush Matters.

Ocala Water Resources Coordinator Gabriela Sullivan takes readers behind the scenes, or rather, below the city, to look at what Ocalans are flushing down their toilets and drains.

Did you know that City of Ocala staff has a direct line to Santa Claus? Some may call it a direct sewer line, but we can instantly tell who’s been naughty or nice based on their pipes.

As the water resources coordinator for the city, I recently joined Corey Croteau, central lines technician, who works behind the scenes with other City of Ocala “elves” and informs Santa on who’s been naughty or nice. How can he tell? Because he is the one who cleans out the sewer pipes.

Early one morning, I joined Corey and the team to learn a little more about what’s underground in Ocala – the sewer system. Ocala’s sewer system spans over 325 miles, serves almost 30,000 residents and safely transports sewage to one of our two wastewater reclamation facilities. Once water leaves your sink, toilet or shower, it joins the 6.4 million gallons of sewage traveling beneath your feet.

With my camera in hand, I was ready to see what our “nice” citizens were flushing down their toilets. I was expecting the three P’s, pee, poop, and paper (toilet), but I didn’t foresee the large mounds of unflushables such as wipes, facemasks and feminine hygiene products; along with the small icebergs of grease that make their way down the river of sewage. 

Using a high-pressure hose and a sewage vacuum, Croteau loosened the mound and sucked the debris from the sewer pipe. The city’s regular maintenance is crucial to avoiding sewer backups. However, it takes teamwork between the City of Ocala and city customers to keep our infrastructure clog free. 

Throughout the holiday season, we want to educate Ocala citizens about the dangers of putting unflushables and fats, oils and grease – or as we like to call it F.O.G. — down the drain. The holiday season is a time for gathering and eating delicious meals. Unfortunately, the fats, oils and grease which make those holiday dinners so tasty, end up going down your drain. Salad dressing, butter, and gravy are just a few holiday culprits.

Eventually, F.O.G. will join some unflushable wipes or a feminine hygiene product or two stuck in your pipe, and suddenly you are on the naughty list of 2022. Like some of the presents a person may receive this year, a clogged pipe may come as an unwelcome surprise without a return receipt. 

Not to worry, this holiday season can be different. Think of me as your very own Rudolf, here to guide you. Here are some ways you can stay on the nice list and keep your pipes clear: 

• ONLY flush the three P’s (pee, poop, and paper).

• Scrape and wipe all pans and plates before washing. 

• When in doubt, throw it out!

• Think three Cs – can it, cool it and chuck it! 

Take an empty tin can. Fill it with your used fats, oils and grease. Cover and place it in the freezer or fridge. When the can is full, remove the lid and toss the can into the trash. 

Remember Santa keeps track and so do your pipes, so don’t let grease steal your holidays.  

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