It wasn't long ago that I realized I had failed to be thankful for an important member of my family -- indoor plumbing. Because it has always been a fixture in every home where I've lived, I don't think I ever truly appreciated the convenience of brushing my teeth, running the washing machine, loading the dishwasher or flushing a toilet. Being an intrinsic part of everyday life, I never gave it a moment's thought where all our domestic waste was going and who was taking care of it. I failed to make the direct connection between our quality of life and the health of my family, to the work being done each day at wastewater agencies in cities where I live, work and play.

Since joining Delta Diablo Sanitation District, I know exactly where my domestic waste goes and who takes care of it.

I have also come to understand that the next few weeks are some of the busiest for our dedicated staff. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's is when we experience the highest number of calls from our customers. Frantic communications reporting they are experiencing a blockage in their pipes resulting in domestic waste returning to their homes via bathtubs and kitchen sinks -- usually when they have a house full of family and guests.

More often than not, it is determined to be the owner's responsibility because of issues with their pipes. In this spirit, I want to share some tips on how you can safeguard your home this season so that the only visitors are family and friends giving thanks and enjoying holiday traditions.

Fats, oils and grease are a common cause for blockage in household pipes. With the increase in people in our homes and the abundance of grease from cooking all those yummy holiday treats such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, it is a great time to remember to take care of our pipes so they can take care of us:

  • Never pour fats, oils and grease down the sink, drains or toilet.

  • When cooled, put used cooking oil into a container for disposal.

  • Wipe all pots and pans with a paper towel to get any leftover grease before washing or loading in your dishwasher.

  • When soaking a greasy pan, place a paper towel over the drain basket as you pour the water down the drain to catch any grease or food items from entering your pipes.

  • Home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of your plumbing system, so be sure to scrape grease and food scraps from plates, pots, pans, and utensils into a can or heat proof container.

  • Hot water does not dilute grease, only delivers it further down pipelines where it congeals and catches other items which block your pipes and those of your neighbors.

  • Do not dispose of large amounts of fats, oils and grease in regular garbage or trash receptacles, but bring to the Delta Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility at 2550 Pittsburg Antioch Highway in Pittsburg (open Thursday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check website for holiday hours).

    Also, your toilet is not a trash can. The only thing that should go into your toilet bowl is what comes out of you. Of course toilet paper is OK, as well, but no face wipes, Q-tips, dental floss, diapers, baby wipes, or feminine hygiene products. All of those need to go into a trash receptacle.

    As recipients of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies' "Platinum" award for nine consecutive years, the Delta Diablo team has been recognized with some of the best staff in the nation. Yet, as awesome as I think they are, I know you would prefer to meet them when taking a tour of the plant, at a local community event or in school classrooms -- and not during an emergency situation in your home this holiday season. Thanks for taking the time to consider making small changes in the way you dispose of your household waste so that our staff can continue to provide the high quality of service your family expects and deserves every day of the year.

    Angela Lowrey is the public information manager at the Delta Diablo Sanitation District in Pittsburg.