Friday, July 5, 2013

Is it getting foggy in your neighborhood?

There is a fog rolling in. No, it’s not the type of fog that sometimes drapes our city in cool mist in the mornings making the drive through town a bit more treacherous. And no, it’s not the fog from the 1980’s horror flick in which a ghostly fog envelopes a small town bringing ghosts and goblins that wreak havoc on the town’s people. The fog I am talking about is somewhere in between.

FOG  stands for Fats, Oils, and Grease, and if you work in the sewer industry, your greatest foes come from this type of FOG. Fats, oils, and grease are produced in your home as a natural waste product when you prepare food. If you pour your waste fats, oil, and grease down the drain, then it gets into your sewer system and the city’s sewer system and cools. As it cools, it becomes more solid and begins to clog up the sewer system. When enough grease has built up on the side of the sewer system walls that sewer cannot flow freely through the system a sewer backup or overflow can occur. A sewer backup or overflow can push raw sewer out of a manhole into the streets or it can back up drain pipes in your home and enter your house. Pretty nasty picture, right?

Our sewer system is one of our greatest assets. When it works the way it should, things you don’t want in your home are whisked away from your home and neighborhood. However, when fats, oils, and grease damage the system the impacts are far reaching. Sewer overflows can damage your home or property. Sewer overflows can damage the environment. The damage caused by fats, oils, and grease in our sewer lines results in increased maintenance and treatment costs, and that directly impacts your pocketbook because as maintenance costs rise the rate we charge you for sewer maintenance will have to increase also.

The City of Clinton has implemented a FOG prevention and control ordinance and will be working closely with local business owners that have a high potential for creating FOG, such as restaurants, car washes, and maintenance facilities, to reduce the amount of FOG in our sewer lines. These businesses will be working closely with the staff in the Department of Public Works to protect the quality of our sewer system. We are excited about working with our businesses to help improve the quality of the infrastructure that we all rely on and look forward to forming new partnerships to improve our community. However, we need everyone to do their part to help keep your citizen owned sewer system in good shape and make sure that we can keep our operating costs as low as possible.

First, do your very best not pour fats, oils, or grease down the drain into our sewers. Scrape food waste into the trashcan instead of pouring it down the drain or putting it through your sink disposal. Pour left over grease into a container and put it in your trashcan. If you are worried about the smell of grease or the liquid leaking out of your trashcan, pour the grease ad oils into a lidded container and keep it in your freezer. When the container is full just toss it out in the trash. Use metal strainers to catch food waste in your sink before it goes down the drain. Teach your children to put oils and grease in the trash and not in the sink. Be sure to let grease cool before putting in your trash can and make sure the grease is in a lidded container with the lid closed or sealed securely in a bag before placing it in your curbside trash can.

If you read my column last month, you learned about the challenges that we face in maintaining our ageing infrastructure. The truth is that it is your infrastructure. You own it. You helped build it through your rate payments and tax dollars. Now we need you to help maintain it to keep the system running, avoid future costly repairs, and keep the sewer utility rates as low as possible for everyone.