The city Department of Environmental Protection has launched a campaign to educate the public about the nasty and costly problems that cooking grease could cause. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Nothing says the holidays like fried turkey and latkes, but if you pour your leftover cooking grease down the drain or toilet, you may get a gift you're not thankful for.
"The grease problems will cause backages, backups in the sewers that will cause blockages. That can impact the way the sewer works," said Jim Roberts, deputy commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection. "In worst case conditions, it can sometimes lead to backups in homes."
That could mean that just when everyone's over to celebrate, you might end up with a stinky situation that will ultimately cost you and the city a pretty penny.
"We've spent several million dollars a year on what we call degreasing," Roberts said. "To give you some frame of reference, it costs about $20 a gallon for the degreasing agent that we use, and we use sometimes as much as 20 or 30 gallons."
In an effort to educate New Yorkers about the problem, the DEP launched an outreach pilot program. They are handing out information and tools for getting rid of grease properly.
"We have a little cap in here that they can attach to their coffee can or soda can and put the grease in and let it go out with the regular garbage," Roberts said.
The DEP has also partnered with the nonprofit Center for Employment Opportunity to help spread their message. The program pays young people to canvas neighborhoods.
"Sewage backup is something that nobody wants. The smell, everything about it, nobody wants it," said Tatiana McClurkin, a worker with the Center for Employment Opportunity. "So this is good for us to be out here putting out these flyers."
The program is starting in Queens because the borough has the highest percentage of reported sewage backups caused by grease. The Briarwood neighborhood was particularly problematic.
"In a lot of the residential areas, about two-thirds of our problems with the sewer system are related to grease conditions," Roberts said.
The program runs through the spring, and the DEP says it's just one more tool they have that's helping improve the city's sewers.