Scottish Water is to step up its fight against fatbergs which can cause major flooding and pollution with the launch of a new project.

A new project being trialled aims to substantially reduce the number of blockages in the sewer system which occurs when fats, oils and grease (FOG) are poured down drains then combine with other waste and congeal into a solid mass.

The new Fat Free Sewer project, the first of its kind in Scotland, is being tested in St Andrews. 

The pilot scheme will see every food service establishment, including takeaways, cafes, restaurants and hotels, visited by Network Protection Officers from Environmental Compliance & Services (ECAS) on behalf of Scottish Water.

Where they find a grease management system in a kitchen which is inefficient they will offer advice what improvements should be made this and return at a later date to see if the necessary action has been taken.

It is estimated that Scotland-wide that around eight in ten establishments have inadequate or no systems in place at all.

St Andrews was picked for the six-month initiative as it has more than 100 establishments that serve food, all within close proximity, and is a busy university town popular with tourists.

If the project succeeds in cutting blockages due to FOG it is set to be rolled out to other parts of Scotland.

Mike Will, Waste Water Operations General Manager at Scottish Water, said: “Many blockages in our sewer network occur as a result of the incorrect disposal of fats and oils into the sewer system. The consequences on the environment can be huge – it can cause flooding to properties and roads and pollute rivers, as well as impacting valuable assets such as bathing waters. 

“Currently Scottish Water visits food service establishments on a reactive basis, once blockages have occurred. In some cases these are a one off events, but sometimes we do get called to the same locations. 

“This pilot project, for the first time, will see us proactively visiting food serving premises, giving them advice and guidance on what they can do to protect and preserve our valuable sewer network. We are effectively attempting to put St Andrews’ drains on a diet.

“Even the way businesses wash pots, plates and utensils with greasy residue on them can have a profound impact on our sewers. FOG congeals in our sewers and causes blockages. Additionally if you combine FOG to other things which should not be in our network – such as wet wipes and sanitary items – the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of flooding and pollution.

“The best way to tackle blocked drains and sewers is prevention and projects like this, combined with our customer campaign Keep the cycle running smoothly –  which asks that only pee, poo and (toilet) paper enters the sewers – is the best way to do this’.”

Scottish Water will work with the environmental health team at Fife Council on the project to encourage businesses to dispose of FOG responsibly.

Councillor Ross Vettraino, Fife Council's environment spokesman, said: "An efficient sewerage system is an unseen but essential component of an environment, which we can enjoy and of which we can all be proud. 

"Scottish Water is to be applauded for this initiative and I am confident the council's environmental health resource will be pleased to work with Scottish Water to ensure its success."

It is an offence under the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 to interfere with the free flow of the sewers – fat, oil and grease do this when they congeal. Under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, urban food businesses – such as cafés, restaurants or food takeaways –  which produce over 5 kg of food waste per week also have to present food waste separately for collection unless excluded by a rural location. 

Scottish Water attends an average of 95 blockages every day in Scotland at a cost of £6.5 million a year. More than half are caused by fat, oil and grease being being disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks and clogging up the sewer system.

To watch a video on the project, click here.