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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Tony DeMichele, service manager for Seeco Home Services, remembers the emergency call clearly.
A customer said her drain had clogged and that she had guests arriving soon for their Thanksgiving dinner.
She wanted to know if a plumber could help, and quickly.
A technician arrived only to learn that the cook had put too many potato peelings down the garbage disposal, DeMichele said. The pipes clogged, ruining any chances of using the sink.
These kinds of emergency calls are common on Thanksgiving as many Americans spend a great deal of time preparing for large family dinners, plumbers say.
In fact, the day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday - is one of the busiest days of the year for plumbers, according to Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter Services Co.
On a normal weekday, kitchen sink jobs (clog removals, garbage disposal problems) make up about 10 percent of all Roto-Rooter incoming call volume, Abrams said.
But on Black Friday, kitchen sink jobs represent 22 percent of all jobs nationally, he said. Roto-Rooter expects to get 17,000 plumbing calls the day after Thanksgiving.
Halloween is the warm-up holiday as too many people put pumpkin seeds down their disposal, Abrams said.
The result is that most plumbing contractors are sure to always have one or two technicians working on Thanksgiving, and many more the day after the holiday.
Jeffrey Wilbur, owner of Jeffrey Wilbur Heating and Plumbing, based in Mechanicsburg, said his company always has a technician working on Thanksgiving. He agreed that clogged pipes are as much a part of the holiday as turkey and potatoes.
Wilbur, who has been in the business for 22 years, said that Black Friday shopping traffic also clogs the roads, which makes it difficult for technicians to travel quickly from house to house on one of their busiest days of the year.
And, all because of too much food - or, in at least one case, turkey bones - being shoved down the garbage disposal drain.
"That's why my wife will never have a garbage disposal," Wilbur quipped.
Gary Lloyd, partner with A B A Biz Ness, based in new Cumberland, said he once arrived to a house on Thanksgiving and found that the cook had dumped a large amount of coleslaw down the garbage disposal.
"There were 18 people scheduled to arrive for dinner," Lloyd said. He made it to the house as guests began trickling in.
"It was kind of awkward before they had their dinner," he said. "But, they had a wonderful dinner."
He remembers another call where the family had moved the dirty dishes into the bathtub as a solution to their clogged sink.
Lloyd said a good rule of thumb is to always dump small amounts of food down a garbage disposal and run lots of water both while the disposal is running and after it's turned off.
He especially cautions people to avoid sending stringy materials, such as carrots or banana strings, down the drain, especially when it will be used frequently in one day.
"The blades tend to jam up, it locks and it backs up, and then that can cause the sink to clog as well," Lloyd said.
Some of the plumbing calls, though, aren't about the disposal, but rather too much use of the bathrooms, which can cause a partial clog of the main septic system, he said.
Too many people using the bathroom and flushing the toilets can aggravate an already slow drain, causing a blockage in the main sewer, he said.
"Again, moderation in the usage of the system is the answer," Lloyd said. "Three or four flushes can dump 20 gallons into the system."
Be moderate with flushes and remind guests to do so as well, he said, adding that can be difficult to manage with a house full of guests.
"It's hard to break that down for the family members," he said.
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