FOG stands for “Fats, Oils and Grease” and is found in your kitchen or garage. The main contribution of FOG is from discharge of used grease from cooking processes, but can also be caused by machinery lubricants discharged into floor drains.
Many of the foods we eat contain FOG; these include meats, sauces, salad dressings, deep-fried dishes, cookies, pastries, butter and many others. Generally, food scraps washed down the drain also contribute to FOG in the sewers. Grease accumulation in the sewer system causes obstruction by constricting flow of the sewer pipes, and interfering with the normal operation of your community wastewater treatment system.
From the standpoint of sewage collection, transmission and treatment of residential FOG is actually a major community health hazard. FOG is given special significance due to its inability to mix with water, and its tendency to separate from liquid in the sewer system.
When FOG is released into the sewer lines in any amounts it can seriously degrade the collection system’s ability to remove waste from our community. It can be deposited directly on pipe walls, thus decreasing pipe capacity and, therefore, requiring an increased frequency of cleaning, maintenance, and replacement. Additionally, FOG is extremely hard to process at Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s (HRSD) treatment facility located on Ron Springs Road (adjacent to Carter’s Grove).
FOG, especially grease (fats that are solid and stable at room temperature) dissolved in a warm and/or soapy liquid may not appear harmful. When released into the sewer system that liquid cools down significantly, the grease/fats come out of solution, adhere on the pipe surface and you truly have a recipe for disaster. Sewer lines meet at and dump into lift stations, normally positioned right in your neighborhoods, where small amounts of FOG collect and can become a serious threat to your community’s health. This FOG solidifies and creates huge grease mats on the surface of our sewer lift stations that impedes their function of removing sewer effluent from your home or place of business and giving you a healthy living environment. These mats of FOG can actually shut the station down, resulting in very expensive emergency responses and maintenance to restore normal sewerage flow. If the problem is serious enough, sanitary sewer lines can backup even to the point of threatening your home.
FOG gets into your sewer system from household drains, as well as from poorly maintained grease traps in restaurants and other businesses. Sanitary sewer lines (SSLs) blocked by FOG can cause major problems such as:
- Raw, septic sewage backing up into your home or your neighbor’s home.
- Expensive and unpleasant clean-up that you must pay for.
- Raw sewage overflowing into neighborhood parks, yards and streets.
- Potential contact with disease-causing micro-organisms from the sewage overflow.
- An increase in operation and maintenance costs for the JCSA, which could cause higher sewer bills for you.
Home garbage disposals do not keep grease out of your sewer system, nor will it prevent grease from building up. Products such as detergents that claim to dissolve grease may pass the grease down the pipeline and cause problems elsewhere. In short, you remove it from your immediate vicinity only to help create a larger problem downstream.
The first line of defense and the easiest way to solve the FOG buildup problem in your community and help prevent sewerage overflows is by keeping this material out of the sewer system. Here are a few tips:
- Never pour grease down sink drains or into toilets.
- Scrape grease and food scraps from trays, plates, pots, pans, utensils, and grills and cooking surfaces into a can or the trash for disposal.
- Pour fats, oils and grease into a container such as an empty jar or coffee can. Once the materials have cooled and solidified and the container is full, secure the lid and place it in the trash or take it to any of the JCC Convenience Centers at 1204 Jolly Pond, Rd., 107 Tewning Rd., and 185 Industrial Blvd. in Toano.
- Don’t put grease down garbage disposals. Put baskets/strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids, and empty the drain baskets/strainers into the trash for disposal.
- Communicate with your friends and neighbors about the problem of grease in your sewer system and how to keep it out. The solution starts right in your home with your actions.
The JCSA has created a residential grease abatement program that educates and informs the County residents about the effects of dumping oil and grease down the kitchen sink. Remember the GreaseBusters slogan, “Don’t Strain the Drain!” Protect your community and preserve your environment. Doing so will be a financial benefit to you, your home, and your quality of life. (Waterline 2007)