Industrial Waste Control, Pretreatment, and Grease Reduction

Butter sizzling in a cast iron skillet.

When wastewater pipes become blocked by oil and grease, a common result may be sewer overflows. Sewer overflows can have potentially serious environmental health impacts. The easiest way to help prevent overflows is to minimize grease disposal into the collection system from homes and restaurants.

Industrial Pretreatment Program

The Industrial Pretreatment Program is federally mandated by the Clean Water Act of 1977 and subsequent re-authorization. This Act requires the elimination of the discharge of pollutants into our nation’s waters. The Industrial Pretreatment Program is part of the National Pollutants Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting Program developed under this act. It's a program that monitors industry for regulated pollutants discharged into the sanitary sewer system. This is how we protect public health. Because certain industrial pollutants are not compatible with wastewater treatment procedures, it is necessary to protect the water reclamation facilities’ systems through pretreatment. This helps to ensure that pollutants do not pass through the city’s treatment plants and impact our environment.

Grease Reduction Initiative

The industrial pretreatment program is also responsible for the current grease reduction initiative. Fats, oils and greases improperly disposed through the sanitary sewer system are a major cause of sewer line blockages and overflows. By working with all customer classes to reduce/eliminate grease in the system, staff will reduce the impact of grease on the system.

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Collection of items that come in the fat trapper kit.

Pouring fats, oils or grease (FOG) down the drain can lead to blocked pipes, household plumbing problems, and sewer overflows. And overflows can have potentially serious environmental health impacts. The easiest way to help prevent overflows is to keep grease out of the sink.

That's why we're happy to provide free Fat Trappers for Durham residents! These small grease collection units are convenient to keep in your kitchen and simple to use at home. To request a complimentary Fat Trapper or refill bags (Durham residents only), just complete the online form! (Please note, due to overwhelming response, delivery of new Fat Trappers may delayed by several weeks. We are working as quickly as possible to fulfill all requests!) 

And if you'd like to learn more about how FOG and wipes clog pipes, check out this year’s sewer report. It covers the first three months of the pandemic, and we encourage you to take a look at the full document, which includes information on spills and overflows that occurred in FY 2020.

The Problem with Nonwovens

The vast majority of nonwoven products (even those labeled as “flushable”)  do not readily decompose in the sewer system. Nonwovens alone, or along with improperly disposed of cooking oils in the sewer, can cause major problems. A clog can have a bigger impact than you may think, causing Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO) in your community or even your own home. Your water and sewer funds are used to deal with this problem! Disposing of items properly in the trash is the best prevention.

Remember that the drain and toilet are not trash cans!