Fat Tuesday Borough looking for grease-dumping culprits

By on October 26, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Out of site, out of mind. Well, not exactly.

What most people have become accustomed to flushing down their drains and into the sewage system is increasingly becoming a challenge for local sewage facility operators.

In the past, residents would flush old medications down the toilet or put unwanted cooking scraps containing fats, oils and greases down their drains. Apparently, they still do.

There is growing concern that such practices not only threaten local waterways, it creates a dangerous and potentially expensive situation at waste water treatment plants.

Lititz Borough Council was briefed Tuesday night on the growing problem. The main issue, according to Severn Trent, independent operator of the local waste water treatment facility, is the appearance of an alarming amount of discarded grease and its detrimental effect on the plant’s equipment.

Severn Trent’s Todd Kauffman addressed this in a letter to both the borough and Warwick Township.

"The Lititz wastewater treatment plant continues to receive slug loads of grease, causing significant disruption to the screenings removal equipment in the plant headworks," he wrote. "This ultimately results in a major clean-up effort by the treatment plant personnel."

That clean-up process, he explained, creates a safety hazard to workers because of how slick the grease makes floors and equipment. Pictures depicting the damaging affect to equipment and facilities were shared with council members Tuesday. The images showed the nauseating effect grease, oil and fats are having on the system.

Of concern to officials is that over the past several months there are regular spikes in the level of such contaminants, mainly between the 12th and 19th of each month. It is believed that one or perhaps several customers may be responsible for the bulk of the problem.

"A sample of the grease has been sent to a commercial lab for analyses in an effort to help determine a possible source of the grease," Kauffman told council. "Fats, oils and grease are a major problem at many treatment plants. Efforts to minimize the discharge of these wastes is essential to proper treatment plant operation and maintenance."

Kauffman stressed the importance of maintaining grease traps and knowing the proper ways to dispose of such contaminants.

"At this point we are not entirely sure where it is coming from, but we need to get whoever the discharger is under control," he said. "The problem has only gotten more evident and more problematic."

Council members pointed out that the borough does have penalties, including fines, for the improper disposal of such materials. Council member Doug Bomberger urged the administration to review these penalties in the likely event that test results may soon identify who has been responsible for the problem.

The Lititz Sewer Authority, Lititz Borough and Warwick Township Municipal Authority have issued a notice to sewer users regarding the issue, urging "all sewer customers to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease and do not discharge it to the sewer system."

In a bulletin from Severn Trent, customers are instructed to "never pour grease or cooking oil down the drain. Fats, oils and grease poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet can harden and block pipes, causing the sewer to back up into your home or business through sinks, drains and toilets. Even the smallest amount of fat, oil and greases will solidify and stick to sewer lines. This sticky film catches food and other solid debris washed down the sewer lines. Over time, the debris builds up until the pipe is completely blocked and sewage backs up."

It is suggested that grease be poured into an empty container such as an old soup can, allowed to cool and harden, then carefully placed in the trash. Even before washing pans or containers used to prepare or store food, excesses greases and oils should be absorbed and wiped with a paper towel.

But it is not just the introduction of grease, oil, and fats that have sewer operators concerned. The practice of flushing old medications down the toilet have also come under scrutiny. The shear volume of this practice in recent years has had an increasingly volatile affect on the nation’s waterways, ecosystems and water supply.

In an effort to raise awareness of the issue as well as help facilitate a solution, both Warwick Township and Lititz Borough will hold a "Drug Take Back" program on Saturday. This is part of an initiative by the Department of Justice to get unneeded or expired drugs out of medicine cabinets and off the streets. Drop-off jugs will be available downtown this coming Saturday, where drugs can be deposited, no questions asked, and properly disposed of.

According to Lititz Police Chief William Seace, last year’s initiative collected just shy of 40 pounds in three boxes of surrendered drugs. Once collected, they will be sent to West Virginia to be properly disposed of. More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A3

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