UK Government

Consumer Council for Water: Have a festive and fat free Christmas

News   •   Dec 18, 2009 11:10 GMT

The Consumer Council for Water has some words of warning about the dangers turkey fat could pose to your pipes this Christmas.

Tipping left over fat and grease from the Christmas turkey down the kitchen sink or toilet could cause some unwelcome woes this holiday, and customers might want to think twice before dumping fat, oil or grease down the drain.

It is all too easy to simply rinse the fat and oil from greasy pots and pans down the sink with soap and hot water, but as the fat cools it will thicken again, building up a gooey gunge that could cause a blockage and eventually cause wastewater and even sewage to back up.

There are around 200,000 sewer blockages throughout the UK every year, and three quarters of them are caused by fats, oil and grease clogging up pipes. Clearing these blockages costs millions of pounds a year; costs which are passed onto customers in their annual sewerage bills.

Fat, oil and grease should be poured into an empty container with a lid or wiped out of the tray with kitchen roll and put in the bin. Most water and sewerage companies provide ‘fat traps’ free of charge to collect kitchen waste which can then be thrown away.

The costs of pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain can quickly add up for companies and customers. Any drains or private sewers that carry waste away from the home are the customer or landlord’s responsibility, as is the cost of clearing any private blockages, both inside and outside the property boundary until the point where they connect with the public sewers.

The sewerage company is only responsible for public sewers. In most cases these are in roads or public open spaces but in certain circumstances they may run through private gardens.

If a blockage in the public sewer leads to sewage flooding a home or garden, water and sewerage companies should react quickly to clear up the mess, disinfect the property and provide compensation if appropriate as soon as possible.

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Having your home flooded with sewage is very unpleasant and companies should provide the best customer service possible to prevent it from happening in the first place. Consumers have a role to play too by disposing of fat, oil and grease responsibly, especially at Christmas.

“The cost of having your own drains unblocked can be quite expensive, and if the public sewers are blocked, the sewerage companies’ costs in removing blockages get passed on to customers via sewerage bills.”

More information about how to dispose of household waste appropriately is available at, and can be found in a leaflet about the responsible disposal of waste from the Consumer Council for Water, which has been endorsed by Defra, the Environment Agency and Water UK.


  • Drains from the home are normally no wider than four inches (100mm).
  • If you find it difficult to flush your toilet or notice that water begins to drain away slowly or bubbles come from the bottom of your toilet, contact your sewerage company and clearly explain the symptoms. Do not try to flush the toilet again as this could cause internal flooding.
  • If the problem is due to a blockage or fault in your private drain, you will need to hire a drainage contractor to clear the blockage or repair it. Sewerage companies are only responsible for unblocking and maintaining public sewers.
  • If sewage has entered your property from a public sewer, the company will send someone to visit you as soon as possible and help clean your property.
  • You are entitled to a rebate of your annual sewerage bill (up to £1000) to cover damages to the inside of your property caused by flooding of a public sewer. Visit the Consumer Council for Water’s website for details.
  • Don’t forget to check to see if your household insurance covers sewer flooding.


The Consumer Council for Water

1.    The Consumer Council for Water was set up in October 2005 to represent consumers in England and Wales.

2.    The Consumer Council for Water costs each water customer less than 25p per year.

3.    The Consumer Council for Water has gained £135 million from water companies in reduced prices and extra investments.

4.    The Consumer Council for Water has to date taken up over 60,000 consumer complaints about water and sewerage companies, and secured £6 million in compensation and rebates for customers.

5.     The Consumer Council for Water is a non-departmental public body reporting to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government. It has a committee for Wales, and four committees in England.

6.    Our website is

For public enquiries to the Consumer Council for Water, please contact via email on, our freephone number, 0845 039 2837, or via minicom on 0121 345 1044.


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