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County tackling grease dumping near apartment complexes

Ken Watts | 12/13/2013, 6 a.m.
Fats, oil and grease – FOG – become solids in sewer lines, causing backups and spills. Many spills occur near apartments.

Apartment complexes will be the target of a new anti-grease dumping campaign that DeKalb Watershed Management is launching in January.

County officials say statistics show that a growing number of sewage spills caused by fats, oil and grease – FOG – occurs near apartment complexes, which points to illegal dumping of grease down kitchen sinks and sewer mains.

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Alicia Pennie

Alicia Pennie, the department’s director of public relations, says that in an information blitz called the FOG pilot program, the county will urge tenants to be careful about what they dump down their drains.

“We have shown that there’s a direct correlation between where apartment complexes are located and where we’re having sewer spills, and we know that 70 percent of our spills are grease-related,” Pennie said during a Dec. 7 presentation at Commissioner Stan Watson’s Community Cabinet at Chapel Hill Middle School.

Improper grease disposal and a lack of daily maintenance have been costly for the county.

In 2010, the federal Environmental Protection Agency mandated $700 million in sewer upgrades after the county reported 871 raw sewer spills in five years.

The EPA also fined the county $453,000 and required it to pay another $600,000 to clean up the South River, Snapfinger Creek and the South Fork on Peachtree Creek near Emory University.

In March 2007, the county amended its sewer and sewage disposal code to add FOG regulations and fines for violations.

In 2012, DeKalb awarded two contracts to clean grease from 100 miles of its 2,400-mile sewer network. The work is part of the larger $1.35 billion overhaul to its sewer and water systems, which is expected to take eight years.

Pennie said that cooking oil, butter and other grease become solids in sewer lines, causing backups and spills that are expensive to clean up.

The county’s goal is to convince tenants, homeowners, restaurants and other businesses that use fats, oil and grease to use metal cans or glass jars to dispose of it.

“We feel that if we educate the people in these apartments, they won’t put grease down the drain and we’ll see a reduction in our number of spills,” Pennie said.

The campaign will be monitored for six months. Watershed Management will decide the next steps depending on its progress.