Abilene City Council to consider program aimed at addressing problem of grease clogging sewers

ABILENE, Texas - The city of Abilene is experiencing sanitary sewer overflows from its wastewater collection system, the result of the sewer becoming clogged with debris and grease.

The clogging, the city said, causes sewage to back up into manholes and sometimes overflow from the manholes.

"It is not a problem, but something that happens in all waste-water collection systems," said Tommy O'Brien, the city's director of water utilities.

On Thursday, the Abilene City Council will vote on allowing the city to enter a state program.

Offered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the program is voluntary and aimed at reducing overflows in collection systems.

O'Brien said entering into the agreement with TCEQ will "strengthen the city's positive working relationship with TCEQ" and show that the city is committed to continue its "routine evaluation, maintenance and repairs of the waste-water collection system."

In addition, O'Brien said, the city is also committing to reporting such activities to TCEQ on a "regular basis" to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. That will include evaluating the cleaning of lines, internal inspection of lines with closed-circuit TV and the repair and replacement of lines.

Furthermore, O'Brien said, the city is committing to instituting an program to inform residents about the merits of better control grease.

"Such an educational program, once prepared and implemented, will be of great benefit to the city and its customers," O'Brien said. "The majority of our sanitary sewer overflows are due to blockage of the sewer from grease. So, an effective educational program will explain the benefits of not disposing household grease into the sink and provide information on where to dispose of household grease, and will explain the benefits of routinely cleaning grease traps in commercial facilities.

"Such education will have a significant benefit to reducing overflows caused by grease building up in the sewer."

According to O'Brien, a majority of the city's overflows are the result of grease clogging the sewer – from household kitchens – and grease from commercial restaurants.

"Once people learn there are different ways to dispose of grease, and once businesses with grease traps learn the importance of cleaning them on a routine basis, then the City should experience a significant reduction in overflows due to grease blockage," O'Brien said.

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