Town warns of dumping fats, grease in drains

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg officials don’t want any snags at the expanded sewage treatment plant when it goes online in 2016.

That’s why Director of Public Works Jay McKinley wants residents and restaurants to mind what they dump down the drain. That includes FOG – fats, oils and grease.

“It all kinda stems from the expansion from the wastewater plant,” McKinley said. “We did realize that we need to better monitor the oil and grease in the system.”

Construction of the $21 million upgrade began earlier this summer and the timeline calls for the project to reach completion by September 2016 or October 2016.

“I knew that this was something we wanted to start getting out there,” McKinley said.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also requires that the town have a FOG plan in place in the early stages of building the upgrade and bringing the equipment online.

Strasburg is closely modeling its program after the one Woodstock implemented when that town upgraded its sewage treatment plant several years ago, McKinley said. The town is still in the early stages of rolling out the program.

Residential and commercial customers should refrain from dumping fats, oils and grease into sinks or other drains that take wastewater to the sewage plant. Fats, oils and grease can clog drains at home, causing more problems for property owners, but they also can build up at the plant. Clogged grease traps can lead to costly problems for restaurants.

“You do this, you’re going to have to repair your lines ’cause it’s going to clog your lines,” McKinley said. “It’s not going to make it to our line.”

The town plant has not experienced any specific instances where substances entered the system and caused problems at the plant, McKinley said. However, grease build-up does occur at the plant, he said.

The plant does filter grease, fats and oils from the wastewater and then disposes of the collected material at the landfill. The new plant will feature equipment that is more sensitive to grease in the system.

The town likely will start performing routine inspections at restaurants to make sure the grease traps are cleaned, McKinley said.

“What they need to do is just keep a record that they’re getting it pumped out by an agency that handles grease,” McKinley said. “As long as they have documentation in place, then we’re fine.”

Aside from meeting the DEQ requirement, McKinley said the town needs to protect its upgraded plant.

“We don’t want to dump all this money into a facility and then have it clogged up with grease, is what it really comes down to,” McKinley said.

The DEQ doesn’t require the town take specific steps to prevent the waste products from entering the system. The agency generally asks that the town protect its system. This recommendation extends to any illegal discharge into the system of chemicals, paints and other types of substances.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that people aren’t putting those things in the collection system,” McKinley said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com