After a 15-ton block of fat and baby wipes was recently discovered clogging up a sewer near London, sanitation officials in San Francisco on Wednesday were warning residents to think twice about what they flush down their toilets and dump down their drains.
London sanitation officials said the massive 30,000 pound lump of lard was the largest such blob they have ever seen and could take up to six weeks to clear it out.
San Francisco utility workers said the introduction of so-called flushable wipes and animal fat have created a huge problem for the city that ends up hurting the sewer system.
As it turns out, too much grease from fish and chips and other fried foods isn't just bad for your health.
"This is like a clogged artery," said SFPUC Assistant General Manager Tommy Moala. "I would say this is a sewer heart attack if you keep adding grease."
San Francisco sewer workers are waging war against grease buildup in 1,000 miles of pipe.
"I've seen grease balls as large as Volkswagens inside the sewer," said Moala
Part of the problem are wet wipes which, when flushed into the system, tend to clump together with grease.
San Francisco sewage crews use high-resolution cameras to scope out grease clogs.
"Like clay, yeah. And it just builds up all around the service," said SFPUC sewer service worker Cisco Laster.
Water is pumped in under high pressure to pop the grease "pimple." the city also sends special trucks to restaurants, slurping up used grease to recycle for fuel.
The goal is get the sewers on a fat-free diet.
"We spend about three to four million dollars unclogging grease-related sewer [clogs]," explained Moala.
Adding to the problem is a longtime infrastructure issue. 30 percent of San Francisco's sewers are over 100 years old, which makes getting the grease out old bricks and pipes a bit more difficult.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.