Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG)

The Albemarle County Service Authority maintains over 280 miles of sewer lines and related facilities as we collect the wastewater from homes, institutions, and businesses, and transport that wastewater to various treatment plants. Just like the blood vessels of your body, the sewer lines work best when they are clear of any debris.

However, we face the constant challenge of keeping grease out of our sewer lines. It accumulates along the walls of the sewers and in such facilities as pump stations that push the wastewater along its path to the treatment plant. Just as with your arteries, when enough of the grease accumulates in the pipes, serious consequences often occur. Blockages due to grease can potentially result in sewer overflows in which wastewater flows out of a manhole. This is not only an environmental issue (for instance, it can result in fish kills if the wastewater reaches a stream), but it also can threaten the health of humans and pets by contaminating the ground and any property with which the wastewater comes into contact. The grease blockages must be cleaned from the sewers and pump stations by ACSA maintenance personnel, and the grease hinders processes at the wastewater treatment plants. Both of these maintenance efforts increase sewer user rates.

If we have not raised your interest to this point, consider the fact that grease blockages within the plumbing of a home, institution, or business may result in raw sewage overflowing within a building.

So where does this sewer grease originate? You’re probably thinking that restaurants, and the cafeterias of such institutions as hospitals, care facilities, and schools, are the main sources of the problem. There can’t possibly be that much grease coming from the residences. You would be only partially correct in your thinking.

Granted, restaurants and institutional food service establishments may use, and can potentially release, significant amounts of fats, oils, and grease (FOG). However, the ACSA has a program to monitor the commercial food service establishments, and they are required to install specialized devices on their plumbing systems to help capture FOG.

It may surprise you, then, that grease accumulations in the sewers of residential neighborhoods can be just as significant as in the commercial regions. Since there are no devices in the homes and apartments to capture FOG, the best prevention is to keep this material from ever entering the drains. You can reduce or eliminate this problem with a few basic changes in your daily activities. If you are an ACSA water customer with a septic system for wastewater disposal, you will also benefit from keeping excessive oil and grease out of your system.

The main sources of FOG are meats, frying oils, butter, margarine, and other dairy products, salad dressings, gravies, and sauces. Here is a list of things to do, and not do, to keep FOG from going down the drain and entering the sewer system:

Thank you for your assistance as we address this significant problem; everyone will benefit from a grease-free sewer system.

Should you have any further questions, please contact Tim Brown at 977-4511, ext. 119, or tbrown@serviceauthority.org

FOG Prevention Tips