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Meat Water: Not A Thing

Posted on June 28, 2017 by | Comments Off

There comes a time in every educator’s life when you question if you are really making a difference. Am I reaching people? Am I molding the next generation of world changers? Will they remember any of this? 

I’ve been a Community Educator with HRSD for about 5 years and I love what I do. I get to teach people how HRSD cleans dirty water and why clean water is important, create interactive activities to bring to schools, and blog about my experiences right here on “Let’s Talk Green.” At this point, most of my friends and family know what not to flush because it’s one of my favorite soap boxes to stand on. Encouraging civic engagement is my jam. I even convinced my brother to stop hurling his used turkey fryer oil over the fence. Community Educator win.

But then, it happened. One ordinary night my husband and I were going through the post-dinner motions of cleaning up and getting the kids clean and in bed with enough efficiency to allow for a TV show and an adult beverage before turning into pumpkins. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him leaning over the kitchen sink with the pan he had cooked the beef in that night. No, I thought. He can’t be. He wouldn’t…

Fats Oils Grease Disposal

This is not “meat water.” It is FOG.

Me:  What are you doing?

Husband:  Huh?  Just…

Me:  Are you pouring that grease into our sink?! 

Husband:  What? No, it’s not grease, it’s meat water.

Me:  MEAT WATER?! Meat water is not a thing. There is no such thing as meat water. 

Husband:  Yes, this is meat water. It’s not grease. Bacon makes grease. This is more like water.

Me:  HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?! You can’t pour that down the drain. Do you ever listen to anything I say? I spend a lot of time telling people to keep FOG out of their drains, and now you, my own husband, my sink. That clogs pipes, causes sewage spills…Ahhhhhhhh!  *Throws hands in air*

Husband:  It’s MEAT WATER! Meat water doesn’t clog pipes.

Me:  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MEAT WATER! 

I could continue but we just started to talk in circles at this point. 

Community Educator FAIL. Apparently, my messages are sometimes lost on the ones closest to me. And this is the same sink I have blogged about in the past, a sink that my husband installed WITHOUT a garbage disposal because garbage disposals send too much gunk into the pipes and contribute to clogs and sewage spills. He knows that part. He scrapes his leftovers into the trashcan and compost bin like a champ.   

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

I guess I need one of these above my sink.

So here goes.  For my husband and everyone else I have failed to reach. Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) DO NOT GO DOWN THE DRAIN. That includes any leftover residue from cooking meat. Even if it looks “watery.” It’s not meat water. Meat water does not exist. Google it. 

It turns out, I’m not alone. My coworker, Molly, is also a Community Educator, guest blogger, and environmental steward with a green thumb (check out her composting tips). She realized recently that her husband was not using the strainer in their kitchen sink. He didn’t think he needed to since he scrapes all of the large pieces of food in the trash. But what about the teeny tiny pieces? If our husbands lived together, they would have some hefty bills from the plumber. The FOG sent down the drain would cling to the pipe walls and catch all of those teeny tiny pieces and eventually make a big ol’ clog. And there’s more. She also caught her husband (why is it always the husbands?) leaving grass clippings on the sidewalk because “the rain will wash it away into the storm drain.” And not just any storm drain. A storm drain that resides on the worst hit street in the state of Virginia by Hurricane Matthew. Their house flooded, their floors floated, they evacuated in the middle of the night. Everyone on their street is all too familiar with the stormwater system and how important it is to keep things flowing. PLUS, grass clippings pollute our waterways with excess nutrients. Our husbands are both smart people, but it seems we’ve overlooked them in our quest to save the world. 

We all need reminders now and then, so please, take this home with you today:

Meat water is not real. Fatbergs are real. 

Google it. Then educate your spouses.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, For educators, Gardening, Going Green, Household tips, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Uncategorized, Waterways

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askHRgreen.org Hits the Streets with “Write as Rain” Campaign

Posted on April 18, 2017 by | Comments Off

rainworks_hashtag

Launched this week (just in time for Earth Day) on sidewalks, streetscapes and thoroughfares throughout Hampton Roads, the motivational campaign will reveal a bevy of good-to-know “green” messages that become visible when wet.  

With the approval of local municipalities, askHRgreen.org committee members blanketed the region using custom-made stencils and an eco-friendly rain-resistant spray to adhere their messages to sidewalks in locations where residents gather. When it becomes wet, the surface around the message darkens while the stenciled area stays dry and light. The messages carry such sayings as: Only Rain Down the Storm Drain; No Wipes in Our Pipes; Your Morning Shower Starts with Tap Water; and Cigarette Butts are Litter, Too. There are 12 different messages in all!

Why “Write as Rain?”
The goal of the campaign is to inspire people to think about our Hampton Roads environment in ways they haven’t before. What’s more unexpected than a magically appearing message written with rain?

Grab your umbrella and head outside to enjoy the next rainy day in Hampton Roads and look for messages in Chesapeake, Hampton, Isle of Wight County, James City County, Newport News, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, York County, and more locations. Find a message near you using our interactive map below and check back often as new locations are added.

Whenever you find one of our hidden messages, don’t forget to snap a photo to share with us on social media #askHRgreen.  

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Community events, Don't litter!, Fats, oils and grease disposal, Going Green, HR Green campaign updates, Keeping storm drains free, Reduce reuse and recycle, Waterways

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Disposable diaper liners- to flush or not to flush?

Posted on January 10, 2017 by | Comments Off

Ah, diapers.  A staple of nurseries everywhere.  But as a parent, how do you decide what kind of diaper is right for your kiddo?  Gone are the days of only a handful of disposable diaper options or cloth diapers that are secured to your precious baby with terrifyingly-stabby safety pins.  Now you’re faced with so many choices!  If you decide to go with fully disposable diapers, should you buy off-brand or name-brand?  Organic?  Moisture-wicking?  Chlorine free?  Should you enter the realm of cloth diapering and, if so, should you purchase All In Ones, All In Twos, pocket diapers, or hybrids?  Inserts?  Cotton liners?  Disposable liners?

The answer to these questions depends on your personal preferences and what works for you and your family.  But having successfully navigated the mysterious world of diapering twice now, I’ve figured out a few things. 

1)      Your baby will ultimately have the final say (i.e., you’ll choose the type that doesn’t make him or her break out in a bum rash) 

2)      Occasional leaks are an inevitability

3)      Disposable diaper liners are not flushable

“Hold the phone, Molly; did you just say disposable diaper liners aren’t flushable??  But a lot of them state that they’re flushable right on the packaging!  How can this be?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  Much like “flushable” wipes, they’re misnamed.  Technically you CAN flush both wipes and liners, just like my son has recently shown me that you CAN flush ninja turtle action figures.  But should you flush them?  Definitely not.

Diaper Liners Blog 1Disposable diaper liners are thin mesh-like cloths (usually made out of cotton or viscose rayon) that can be placed in diapers to conveniently catch solid waste.   The idea is that rather than removing the waste from and scrubbing the entire cloth diaper or insert, you can just remove and discard the liner and toss the rest into the washing machine.  But where should they be discarded?  Most are labeled “flushable,” although many specify that they are not “septic safe.”  Most I’ve found state this (or something similar) on the packaging:

Place liner inside diaper.  When diaper is soiled, simply remove and flush down toilet.  May cause blockage in old or damaged drains.  Not recommended for sensitive septic tanks.” 

Hm… suspicious!  So does that mean they’re safe to flush if your home has newer plumbing?  How do you determine whether or not your septic system is “sensitive?”  Talk about confusing packaging.

While there are plenty of first-hand accounts of the detriment of flushable wipes on our sewer systems, I couldn’t find enough out there in terms of disposable diaper liners to ease my uncertainty.  So, in order to decipher whether they’re truly safe to send down the drain, I put on my lab coat and did a bit of experimenting on my own.

Supplies:

1)      Three well-known brands of “flushable” diaper liners

2)      3 bowls of water

3)      1 washing machine

4)      1 mesh garment bag

Diaper Liners Blog 2

12 hours after being placed in water the diaper liners are going strong!

 

Diaper Liners Blog 3

A full 24 hours in water and the liners still haven’t changed.

First, I placed two sheets of each brand of diaper liner in a bowl of water, swished them around a bit, and let them sit overnight.  As you can see, all three survived completely unscathed.  I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and leave them in for another twelve hours.  Nope, still holding on strong!

Next, I figured I’d simulate the sloshing of our sewer lines by putting them through a round in my washing machine.  I placed them in a mesh garment bag to prevent them from wrapping around the agitator and then waited patiently.  The result….they survived!  I couldn’t find ANY signs of deterioration.

Diaper Liners Blog 4

24 hours in water plus a trip through my washing machine. These certainly aren’t going to breakdown any time soon!

Conclusion: Disposable diaper liners are great.  They make cleaning cloth diapers quicker and easier and can help prevent rash creams and ointments from ruining the fabric’s absorbency.  But remember, flushing things down the drain that don’t break down easily contributes to clogged pipes, which can in turn cause environmentally- harmful sewer system overflows.  Or, much like my own ninja turtle action figure incident, they can cause messy overflows in your own home.  So be a Sewer Steward and dispose of those helpful diaper liners in a trash can, NOT a toilet.  

 

Blog contributed by Molly Bertsch, Community Educator at HRSD.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Household tips, What Not To Flush

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Green Ways to Open Your Drain

Posted on September 26, 2016 by | Comments Off

 A casual Sunday stroll down the cleaning supplies aisle at any local home center looks like an armory chocked full of drain cleaning ordinance. Based on their labels, all these products are terrifically effective, but at the end of the day, once you use these chemicals, they’re gone—literally down the drain.

The best approach to cleaning drain clogs is to never get clogs in the first place. That said, here are a few tips to keep your drains running free:

  • Can the grease – Pour used cooking grease into an empty, heat safe container, such as a soup can, and store it in the freezer. Once solidified, toss the can into the garbage.
  • Scrape your plate – Scrape all leftover food from pots, pans, dishes, and cooking utensils into the trash can to prevent them from going down the kitchen sink.
  • Catch the scraps – Use a sink strainer to catch any food scraps that remain on dirty dishes and plates then toss them into the trash or compost bin.
  • Don’t treat your toilet like a trash can – The only things you should be flushing are toilet paper and your “personal” contribution. Anything else, including “flushable” wipes, may contribute to a clog in your home plumbing.
  • When a drain starts to slow down, don’t wait for a clog to form. Pour about a ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Wait a few minutes, then add 1 cup of vinegar, followed by one cup of hot water. Let the chemistry happen for 10 or 15 minutes. Then, run hot tap water down the drain to clean out the congestion, the baking soda and the vinegar.

 It’s always best to be proactive about pipe blockages. But when a clog hits your home plumbing, here’s what do to get things flowing again without the use of toxic chemicals. Use these tips to help keep all of the plumbing in your home clear of clogs.

 

Plunging

plunger2                         

Plungers work by forcing air and water toward a blockage. After several good plunges up and down, the blockage will break up, and then can be flushed down the drain with hot water from the faucet. For this technique to succeed, any vent holes must be plugged with a damp rag to prevent air from entering the drain and reducing the suction created by the plunging action. In a sink basin, these are usually inside the bowl under the front rim. In a tub, they’re at the bottom of the overflow plate. If you have a double-bowl kitchen sink, you should plug one of the two drain openings.

But don’t just grab the first plunger you see. A double cup (or an extension cup) model is best because it allows plunging of toilet bowls in addition to sink and bathtub drains.

 Augering 

auger

A toilet auger, sometimes called a closet auger is designed to remove blocks from toilet traps. A cable is fed into the hole and turned with the handle until the blockage is broken up. A coiled wire bulb at the end of the cable has a sharp point for grabbing solid clogs.

If you’re lucky, a plunger will handle all your slow and blocked drains. But if a bigger clog is afoot, then you’ll need more fire power: either a toilet auger if the problem is with the toilet or a power auger if the problem is in a sink or tub drain.

The toilet auger is a clever cable device made with a coiled wire bulb on one end and a hand crank on the other. This cable rides inside a housing that has a steep bend on one end, designed to fit easily into the hole at the bottom of the bowl.

To use it, insert the bulb end into the hole and keep sliding the cable down until it is blocked. Gently turn the handle to loosen the blockage or to clear the bulb from any built-in obstructions like the joints where pipes meet. If you hit the blockage, just pull the cable back and forth until it breaks up, then wash it down the drain with a fresh flush. If the bulb was stopped by a pipe obstruction, jiggle the cable back and forth until you can push it farther into the drain and on its way to the real blockage.

auger2

The power drum auger holds about 20 ft. of coiled cable inside its housing. The cable is pulled out the front barrel until the wire bulb on the end hits a blockage. Then the cable is locked with a lever (seen just above the bulb) and the cable is turned, either by hand or by attaching a drill to the nub provided on the back of the tool.

The power drum auger is made with the same type of cable found in the toilet auger and it has the same coiled bulb on one end and a turning handle on the other. The cable is longer, usually around 20 feet, and comes wound in a metal or plastic housing.

As before, you start by feeding the coiled bulb into the drain opening on the sink or tub and then turning the handle whenever an obstruction is hit. For especially difficult clogs, this auger is outfitted with an adapter for attaching an electric drill. Attach the drill and hand-cranking becomes a thing of the past.  Keep in mind that both the toilet auger and the power drum auger are common rental items. If you won’t use them often and don’t want to buy them, then consider renting.

Guest blog submitted by Steve Willson who joined Popular Mechanics magazine as their Home Improvement Editor, authored three books and has edited or rewritten 11 books on various home improvement and tool use topics and now writes for  the Home Depot.

Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal

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To Flush or Not to Flush?

Posted on March 23, 2016 by | Comments Off

That was the question posed by Ms. Tanya Conley’s fourth grade science class at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. These smart students recognize that anything that doesn’t dissolve in water could possibly clog home plumbing lines and sewer pipes, resulting in a costly mess.

temp1Students placed samples of toilet paper, baby wipes, and flushable wipes in water bottles and shook the bottles for one minute throughout a two week period to test for “dispersibility”— or how much the paper and wipes would break apart and dissolve. 

The results – all toilet paper samples completely disintegrated, some flushable wipes broke down but did not disintegrate, and the baby wipes remained intact.  

The recommendation from these fourth graders – never flush wipes!

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Posted in: Fats, oils and grease disposal, Household tips, HR Green Mini-Grant Program, What Not To Flush

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