The City's wastewater collection system serves more than 11,000 residents and some 500 business, including some 835 apartment units within 11 separate public and private apartment complexes. And, cooking oil grease from those residential apartment units, alone, created 14 manhole overflows in the City's wastewater collection system last year.
That meant an expenditure of $7,000 last year specifically for chemicals to unclog those manhole junctions, not to mention repairs to sewer lines, according to City Wastewater System Superintendent Bobby Arney.
Arney asked the Hope City Board of Directors here Tuesday night for the authority to implement a program to combat grease disposal in the sewer system similar to a program now in use in Little Rock. He dubbed the program “Can Your Grease.”
The program is simple, Arney said. It begins with residents properly disposing of cooking oil grease by letting it cool after use, then pouring it off into a plastic-lined can which the City will provide free of charge. After the bag becomes full, it can be simply tossed into the trash.
“Grease can build up in sewer lines and restrict the flow or cause blockages, and can ultimately force wastewater upon onto streets or even your homes,” Arney notes in a handout explaining the program. “Each home or commercial building has a separate connection to the public sanitary sewer main called a lateral. It is the property owner's responsibility to maintain and repair their own sewer lateral from the house up to the point of connection with the public sewer main.”
Consequently, should grease build up within the property owner's side of the main line, any damage is borne by the property owner. But, once grease flows beyond that point and goes into the main system, it becomes a hazard for the entire system, Arney said.
Most of the problems which have occurred within the last year or more have centered around sewer lines serving public housing complexes, he said. Arney said initial tests of the “Can Your Grease” program have met with good response from public housing authorities. He plans to take the program to rental property owners in Hope next.
The City of Little Rock purchased 900 of the small storage cans and 8,000 of the plastic liners for them at a total cost of $2.16 per can, he said. Arney said Little Rock officials have been pleased with not only the response among residents, but also the resulting drop in grease-related sewer problems since staring the program in 2003.
Arney plans a publicity campaign through City billing inserts and public media, he said.