The online RCAP Resources Library has a variety of resources that are useful to small, rural drinking water and wastewater systems.

The Greasy Goblin Lurking Below Your Town

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The Greasy Goblin Lurking Below Your Town

Public awareness can help avoid costly clogs in your system

by Breanna Detwiler, Communications Director (RCAP)

In even the most tranquil of towns, something frightening may lie just below the surface. A menacing mass feeding on everything that passes its way. In the dark of the sewers it lives, grows, preparing to terrorize wastewater operators everywhere. No, it’s not the Blob from outer space, but this jellylike invader is just as likely to wreak havoc on your small town wastewater system.

It’s a fatberg, a congealed lump of wipes, sanitary items, fat, and other objects that should not be flushed or dumped down drains.  London water operators coined this relatively new term as they fought a monstrous deposit of fat and other items clogging their sewers this summer.  The 16.5-ton mass, roughly the size of a Boeing 747, had to be cleared using high-powered jets at a significant cost. The primary culprit, “flushable” wipes.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem across the pond, cities and towns throughout the US have reported issues with wipes, even those advertised as flushable and biodegradable, clogging up their systems. Wipes coupled with fat, oil, and grease, commonly known as FOG, creates a recipe for disaster. The fat dumped down drains clings to wipes, building up bergs of garbage and grease. Left untreated, fatbergs can cause sewage flooding and even backups in homes.

So what can you do to thwart this threat? Here are a few tricks to prevent this greasy goblin from mucking up your well running wastewater system.

  1. Communicate what should and should not be flushed to residents.  Post a list of dos and don’ts on your town website, like this one from the City of Denton, TX. Share our video, Your Role as a Consumer in Your Community’s Wastewater System, to help residents understand their role in maintaining a well-running community system.
  2. For commercial operations, especially restaurants, ensure that interceptors are in place and properly functioning to prevent grease, oil, and sand from entering the sewer system.
  3. Implement or update your wastewater ordinance so it includes discharge prohibitions, pre-treatment requirements, permitting, and other measures that protect your collection and distribution systems. For an example of such an ordinance, click here.

This Halloween, treat yourself to a well running wastewater operation and fend off fatbergs before they strike.


Our Drop of Knowledge resource guide can help non-operators better understand wastewater systems.

This resource guide explains in simple, everyday language the various components/operations of a small wastewater system from when the customer flushes his/her toilet through collection, treatment, and return to source. This guide and its companion (The Non-operator’s Guide to Drinking Water Systems) are the perfect orientation and background guides for new small utility board members and small community decision makers.

To see our full catalogue of resource guides click here.

 


 

Got questions for an expert? Submit a question to be answered by one of RCAP’s field staff. Questions can be about technical, managerial, or financial matters in your system. Submit your question at www.rcap.org/askexpert.