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Beware of fatbergs! What it takes to keep Tampa's pipes clean

This information is 2 months 2 weeks old and may no longer be accurate.

This hurricane season, the City of Tampa is urging residents to keep leftover fat, oil, grease and wet wipes out of the drain. It’s an important step in the fight against environmental damage and in keeping our wastewater collection system functioning properly.

The City of Tampa Wastewater Department has a tool called bar screens in place at its pumping stations, which function as a filter, keeping non-biodegradable materials such as wipes, rags, grit, sand, toys, plastics, and large non-organic debris from entering the primary wastewater treatment process. The bars, which are 1-2 inches apart, prevent these materials from progressing further, ultimately protecting vital equipment and preventing costly repairs and equipment failures.

“Despite being marketed as ‘flushable,’ wet wipes are not biodegradable like other wastewater-friendly materials,” said Eric Weiss, Director of Wastewater for the City of Tampa. “When flushed, wipes accumulate in our pipes, leading to a blockage commonly called a ‘fatberg’ that can cause sewer overflows, disrupt the wastewater system's efficiency, and result in expensive repairs.”

The City of Tampa's Wastewater Department estimates that approximately 99.6 trash cans full of wipes and garbage are removed from pumping stations and bar screen areas on a weekly basis.

To address this issue, City of Tampa Wastewater employees take proactive steps to frequently clear debris from bar screens. Click here for video footage of bar screen cleaning.

As the 2023 hurricane season continues through November 1, the City of Tampa is reminding all residents to adopt responsible flushing practices and refrain from flushing wipes or other nonbiodegradable materials. Significant rain events, such as tropical storms, cause higher than usual wastewater flows, and at times, wastewater overflow, leading to plugged pipes or public health risks for residents and the environment.

By properly disposing of wipes in the trash, this simple change in behavior will have a significant impact on preserving our environment, reducing the risk of sewer overflows, and saving costs associated with repairs and equipment failures.

For more information on responsible wastewater management and proper waste disposal, please visit the City of Tampa's Wastewater Department website.

For Media Outlets wishing to interview Director Eric Weiss about the City’s efforts to keep pipes clean, please email