City of Melbourne, FL, Industrial Pretreatment Program
Industrial pretreatment program, City of Melbourne, Florida

Residential 'FOG'
Even the smallest amounts of fat, oils, and grease will solidify and stick to sewer lines. This ‘sticky, gooey layer’ catches food and other solid debris washed down the sewer line. Over time, more FOG and debris will build up in the line until it is completely blocked up. Once the sewer line is blocked, the water (and other stuff from your sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets) can back up into your house or business.

If the main sewer line in the street or right-of-way gets blocked up, the ‘mess’ can overflow out of a manhole into the street, your yard, or into a storm drain heading down to a waterway.

So what exactly is FOG, and what can we do to prevent problems?

FOG stands for Fats, Oils, & Grease, and is found at home and in restaurants. Let’s take a quick look at the various identities of these ‘arch enemies of the drain’:

FATS: Meat and dairy sources are the main culprits, but some nut butters also contain fats. Fats are usually in a solid form at room temperature and can easily be placed in the trash. Do not put fats in the garbage disposal because those smaller particles will travel a little way down the pipe to cause problems later. Always scrape your fatty food waste into the trash.

Common sources include meat trimmings, poultry skin, cheeses, ice cream, peanut butter, and butter.

OIL: A wide variety of plant sources generate the oil seen in kitchen wastes. Oils are used to deep fry food or as a topping on food such as sandwiches or salads. Oils remain in a liquid form at room temperature, which may make it tempting to pour down the drain. However, you should pour oils into a can or jar, cover the container with a lid, and place it in the trash instead. Oil poured down the drain will coat the pipes and get in the nooks and crannies the fat can’t, making it even easier for fat and grease to stick to the pipes.

What about a lot of hot water and a shot of dish washing detergent to flush down the oil? Sorry to ‘burst your bubble,’ but hot water and soap will only move the oil down the pipe a bit. The trap under your sink may be clean, but the pipes outside are now collecting the oil, which is forming a nice mess to capture other fats and solids. The hot water and soap does not treat the oil, it merely moves it downstream.

Common sources include salad dressing, cooking oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, and corn oil. Remember that some oils may be healthier for us to eat, but they are all bad for the drains.

GREASE: You can consider grease to be public enemy number one for the pipes because it becomes a liquid after cooking, but eventually cools down into a solid. Generated from frying, baking, etc., grease occurs when fats from food melt under heat. Problems arise when the melted fat is poured down the drain, only to solidify in the pipe. Each time grease is poured down the drain, the solid layer downstream gets thicker and thicker until a solid plug of grease stops-up the flow.

The best way to handle grease is to let the pan cool and pour the grease into a container. An empty cooking oil container works well, or you can use an empty soup can sealed up with a lid or in a zip lock bag. The cooled, solidified grease can be placed in the trash can for disposal.

Common sources include cooked/melted fat from meat, bacon, sausage, as well as skin from boiled poultry, gravy, mayonnaise,and salad dressing.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Q: My drains don’t back up, so should I worry about FOG?
A: Yes! Everyone connected to the City of Melbourne collection system impacts the entire system as well as the pipes in their yards. If problems occur in the collection system due to FOG issues, everyone is impacted and rates might have to go up to address more frequent maintenance.
Q: What is the collection system? To be honest with you, once I flush stuff down the drain, I never think about where it goes. You know what they say, 'out of sight out of mind.'
A: The collection system is the system of pipes and pump stations that collect and move the wastewater from all the residences and businesses in town. All the wastewater ultimately reaches one of two water reclamation facilities operated by the City of Melbourne.

Q: I was always told to’ just pour that bacon fat down the drain with lots of hot water and a couple squirts of soap’. If it works to clean the dishes, why won’t it work for the drain?
A: That question alone can provide many different science fair projects, but let’s keep it short and sweet.

  1. The drain ‘looks’ clean because the grease is in a liquid state being pushed through the drain and sink trap with lots of water. The reason folks that have done that is because the heat from the water helps to keep the grease liquid.
  2. Once the grease cools down enough it will solidify and it does not mix with water. The hot water and soap may help it move along the pipe further, but it does not remove the grease.
  3. Yes, the hot water and soap clean your dishes, but not by ’treating’ the grease, it merely assists in ‘lifting’ it from the dishes to the water where it moves on down the pipe to build up and cause potential problems.
Q: What should I do with my leftover oil or grease?
A: Once it has cooled, place your used oil or grease in a container with a top. Dispose of the container in the trash. Wipe the grease-laden pan with a paper towel and place the towel in the trash too.
Q: Hey, I’ve got a garbage disposal, so what’s wrong with just shoveling all the leftovers in there and saving space in the trash can?
A:  What would happen if you put all that junk in a blender and ran it for a minute? Garbage disposals grind up the food, but still leave lots of particles to settle out and bind with the FOG to create clogs. The best thing to do is scrape food from your plates in the trash.