This week on “Wonderful Water,” join Aaron Keck for a conversation with Shawn Stanley, distribution and collection systems coordinator at OWASA, and Leslie Chartier — a local culinary instructor and personal chef — about wintertime water precautions to avoid frozen pipes and proper disposal procedures for leftover grease and oil that often crops up during holiday cooking.

As temperatures drop and cold winter weather sets in, the status of pipes in your home is something to keep top-of-mind. After all, nothing ruins a holiday season quite like a broken pipe or costly repairs that also prevent kitchens and bathrooms from being used.

“Most homes have a master shutoff in their home closest to the hot water heater that you can isolate and cut the water off there,” said Stanley. “But if you’re unable able to find it — or you don’t have one — you can contact OWASA. We can come cut the water off. But we do have some recommendations … The greatest chance of freezing is in crawl spaces or in basements, stuff that’s unprotected, stuff that isn’t open to the heating elements of your home. What you can do there is just make sure all the air leaks are covered and that all ceilings are complete.”

According to Stanley, the old-fashioned fix of leaving a couple faucets dripping does indeed work — since running water has more trouble freezing — but there’s no substitute for keeping the temperature well-regulated and doing safety checks before and after especially cold days (or nights).

Frozen pipes aren’t the only holiday-adjacent hazard that can be relatively easily avoided, however. A great deal of festive holiday cooking involves oil and grease — which should never, ever be disposed of down the drain.

“Most of the time when the grease goes down, it’s hot. And then when it gets to the sewer lines and it gets cold, it begins to harden and can cause blockages at the nearby wastewater infrastructure and could cause overflows for the public sewer system,” said Stanley. “If it’s over a thousand gallons or if it reaches surface water, we have to report it through the state and then it can incur many great charges. Typical workload, you’re looking into the thousands of dollars. So, general rule, just don’t do that.”

Of course, there are some better solutions to the problem of grease and oil in the kitchen. Solutions that can prove to be creative and delicious in equal measure.

“Old-timey solutions are sometimes the best and the easiest,” said Chartier. “Reuse, recycle. You know grandma’s old bacon grease can? Get one. Use it, because you can reuse that oil, as long as you’re storing it in a cool dry place, and it’ll last for a really long time. If you’re doing bacon, save it. I use it in vinaigrette — there’s wonderful bacon vinaigrette that’s three parts oil, one part vinegar. So just use your vinegar of choice, add some honey, maybe some mustard and shallot, and then put warm bacon grease in it, pour it over your greens, and you will love it.”

You can listen below for the full conversation between Aaron Keck, Shawn Stanley Leslie Chartier below, and visit the Wonderful Water page here for more interviews with — and stories from — the people who keep our community growing by keeping the water flowing.


Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents use roughly 7 million gallons of water a day, and “Wonderful Water” is a monthly conversation sponsored by the Orange Water and Sewer Authority highlighting its work to keep our community growing and water flowing.