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Water and Oil Don’t Mix: Keep Grease Out of Your Wastewater

COMMUNITY CENTERClean Water & WaterwaysGreen Homes & BusinessesAug 31, 2012Brianna Venner

Author: Brianna Venner

I’m stating the obvious, but it’s been REALLY wet around here lately!  With the amount of rainfall in Hampton Roads and many elevations in the single digits, our sanitary sewer and stormwater systems can use as much help from us as they can get. Many people think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they think of the size of the sewer pipes, but the reality is most pipes are only about 8 inches wide. During this last bout of rain, one residential area began flooding 4-6 hours earlier than other surrounding areas because the pipe was so so heavy with grease buildup the wastewater flow was reduced to about 4 inches. Storm events force water into the system through broken cleanouts, ground seepage, and manhole covers.  The extra water entering a pipe already restricted by fats, oils, and grease (FOG) buildup can fill it to capacity and sometimes cause a sanitary sewer overflow.  During a sewer overflow, untreated wastewater/sewage can quickly enter our stormwater drains and contaminate local waterways.  While we can’t control the weather, we can do our best to protect our pipe system.  Here’s how:

  • Just Can It! Pour grease into a heat safe container, like an old soup can, freeze it, and throw it in the trash.
  • Scrape food scraps in the trash and limit the use of your garbage disposal.  Fatty foods down the drain can also stick to pipes.
  • Wipe dirty dishes with a paper towel before washing.  Food residue from salad dressing, ice cream, and spaghetti sauce, for example, all contain fats, oils, and grease.