pipe full of grease
Saturday, April 8 2023
The day began cool enough for me to start a fire in the woodstove despite the abundant passive solar flooding in through the windows. During our morning ritual of coffee and Spelling Bee, I commented on how good a piece of marinaded tofu was. It was unusally tough, something Gretchen attributed partly to the brand ("Hodo"). She said that when you try to press it, it's like "what are you doing?" Riffing on this idea, I said "I'm already a neutron star, what, are you trying to make me into a black hole?" That was such a nerdy thing to say that Gretchen decided to give me a hug.
Gretchen has been dealing with an person in her life who has been having distinct psychological problems that our friend Lisa thought might be "borderline personality disorder." I hate the name (borderline of what?) but when I read about it in Wikipedia, a lot of the symptoms we're aware of seem like those of BPD, though there are other attributes (such as the constant deployment of psychological manipulation) that seem to be something else.
Another topic I read about extensively was the D&H Canal.
Early this afternoon, Gretchen went off to meet up with friends while I returned to the brick mansion on Downs Street to continue my battle with the clogged kitchen drain in the second floor apartment. First, though, I stopped at Home Depot to buy a bunch of 1.5 inch PVC fittings in case I wanted to install union fittings (for easy disassembly) and clean-out ports. There was a woman there accosting random people to see if they were interested in signing up for solar. She approached me while I was looking for a Ryobi power inverter in the tools area. In our conversation, she said there were new panels that would work well on west-facing roofs (I'm not sure how). This made me slightly more interested, so we looked at my house on Google maps to see what might be done. She then collected my phone number and said someone would be calling me.
In the Downs Street basement, I drilled an exploratory hole into the 1.5 inch drainage pipe from the second floor kitchen soon after it had turned from a vertical pipe into a horizontal one heading towards beefier copper sewer pipes. and was perplexed when no water came out of it. So then I used a reciprocating saw to cut entirely through the pipe. To my horror, I found that it was completely filled with grease (see the photo below). This seemed to entirely account for the slowness of the second floor kitchen sink's drainage. So I used various sticks to scrape out the grease from both ends exposed by my cut. One section of pipe could be entirely removed, since it was retained on one end by a nylon slip washer. I could take that part out and blast away the grease using an outdoor spigot. Buy beyond what I could reach with a stick, I had to use the snake. It wasn't too effective and removing grease, but it could plow it out of the way to allow more room for flowing water. I also sent the snake up the vertical pipe as far as it could go, but it didn't seem to encounter much of anything in that direction.
The only change I made to the basement plumbing (aside from removing what grease I could) was to install a union fitting. This will allow me to disassemble the part of the pipe where grease seems to want to accumulate, allowing me to attack it easily should the pipe ever get clogged in the future.
I then went up to the second apartment and tested the drain while the tenant looked on. To my horror, it remained just as clogged as before. Something was clearly blocking the pipe nearby. So I filled the sink with water and went down to the basement and to play with the snake some more, hoping to dislodge an obstruction from below and send a gush of water my way. But the snake failed to achieve anything. So I went outside and called up to the tenant, asking if he had a plunger. He said he did, so I told him to plunge a drain in one of the two sink basins while somehow blocking the other drain. As he did this, I held my hand next to the the cut-off end of the drain pipe down in the basement. When I felt air moving with every plunge, it seemed likely that good things were happening. And then just like that, water started gushing out of the pipe, shoving out a huge greasy clot (a "fatberg") in the process. The blockage had been removed!
To celebrate, I drove out to 9W and bought some liquor to restock my depleted laboratory supplies. I then went to Beer World and bought the cheapest Belgian ale I could find ("Nitro Blond"), a $12 four pack. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't particularly good. I drank it on the way home from the Tibetan Center thrift store, where I'd managed to buy a old set of jumper cables for $3.
Back at the house, I smelled a bit like sewer water. So I stripped off all my clothes, put them in the washing machine, and took a nice hot bath.
This evening Gretchen made pierogies and asparagus. (It's still Passover, and no practicing Jew would eat perogies during that time, but Gretchen isn't much more Jewish than I am at this point.)
After I cut through the 2nd floor's drain pipe near where it turns from vertical to horizontal, I found it completely filled with grease.
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