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Program reduces total grease dumped into sewer system

Staff of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities say sewers are a little less greasy thanks to a program first started in 2009.

The Fat, Oil, Grease and Wax Program was created because of a permit requirement, but is now leading to less grease piling up in pipes and wastewater facilities, said SRU Environmental Services Manager Sonja Basinger. One of the best measurements, Basinger said, is sanitary sewer overflows, which are essentially backed up sewer pipes.

“Whenever there is a blockage, it’s going to come through the path of least resistance,” she said. “That could be your home, a commercial business or right out there in the street.”

The Fat, Oil, Grease and Wax Program came after the Environmental Protection Agency and N.C. Division of Water Resourcesmandated that all municipalities with a sanitary sewer system have some sort of program by Summer 2009. Salisbury’s program requires businesses to use a grease trap or interceptor to prevent grease from entering sewer lines.

Some businesses, such as ones that don’t produce a significant amount of grease, are exempt.

As for residential customers, Basinger said it’s a matter of education on the dangers of pouring grease down the drain. Instead Salisbury-Rowan Utilities advocates customers fill a can up with used grease, place it in the freezer and throw it away after it becomes full. Basinger said the program not only helps the City of Salisbury, but also residential customers, which also could see pipes clogged from grease build-ups.

Perhaps it’s working.

In 2008 alone, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities reported three sanitary sewer overflows that were caused by grease. Since the program’s implementation, 2009, only 2 sanitary sewer overflows caused by grease were reported.

The deadline for businesses to comply was April 2012. Salisbury-Rowan Utilities even threw in a few bucks for business that complied early and on time. In the first year — April 2009 to April 2010 — 11 businesses received a total of $16,044.56 in incentives. In the second, eight businesses received $6,000 in incentives. In the third, 13 businesses received $6,500.

“It was going to be an unexpected cost to them so our city council and we as a utility wanted to help offset that cost some,” said the program’s coordinator Teresa Barringer. “It was very much appreciated.”

Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer said the cost for businesses in older buildings may have been higher than ones in newer construction.

As a way to enforce the Fats, Oils, Grease and Wax Program, a severe penalty is for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities to turn off water service altogether. though Barringer says SRU prefers to work with the businesses to solve problems.

“We do everything to assist them to avoid that,” she said.

An example of a violation, Behmer said, would occur if traps aren’t maintained every 30 days and interceptors every 90 days.

“If you have a device and never maintain it, you’re not doing any good anyway,” Behmer said. “Right now, we’re focused on the businesses, but more education still needs to be done in the residential and apartment units, where people are doing their everyday cooking.”

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