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Big Increase in Grease and Wipes at Wastewater Treatment Facility
Jacksonville, FL - JEA’s Mandarin Wastewater Treatment Facility, which sits tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood at the end of Hampton Road, saw a dramatic uptick this summer in the amount of fats, oils and grease (FOG) coming into the plant. Concern for the grease build-up is growing among JEA wastewater managers like the grease itself.
Grease is notorious worldwide for hardening and forming a thick, bulky mat on the water surface within days of its arrival at any wastewater treatment facility. Once hardened, the grease fills up the pump station, clogs equipment and must be removed. If not addressed it could lead to a raw sewage overflow.
“It’s tripled our maintenance budget for that station,” said JEA Manager for Water/Wastewater Treatment Reuse for the South Grid, Robert Parks. “We have to call in a contractor who has to vacuum the grease out of there with tankers and haul it away to a specially permitted landfill. It’s a very labor intensive and costly process.”
The numbers are startling.
- In June 2015, the Mandarin Wastewater Treatment Facility processed 74 tons of fats, oils and grease (FOG), which is about normal for the approximately 68,000 customers the facility serves.
- In July 2015, the volume of fats, oils, and grease more than doubled to 166 tons.
- In August 2015, that number nearly doubled again to 314 tons of fats, oils and grease.
"All that grease is threatening the normal operation of the pump station,” Parks said.
What’s causing the increase?
No one is certain what’s causing the increase, but JEA says it needs the help of Mandarin and Northern St. Johns County residents who use the plant in order to fight - and potentially solve - this grease headache.
First it asks that all businesses use grease traps, which are properly disposed of by licensed haulers who clean out the traps and take the residue to special landfills. You can learn more about all of this at jea.com/grease.
Second, JEA is not ruling out that something else is going on. “We can’t rule out the possibility that there could be some illegal dumping going on,” Parks said. “Although we’ve seen a 4-5 percent increase in plant flow because of growth in our system, the magnitude of the increase in grease volume greatly exceeds the FOG volume per unit of flow seen at the other JEA treatment plants.”
Parks is asking every Mandarin and Northern St. Johns County resident to be on the lookout for suspicious tanker trucks that might pull-up to manholes in JEA’s system - manholes that are not near a restaurant or other logical business where trucks may be legitimately pumping grease traps.
“We’re looking for anyone who is illegally dumping grease into our system instead of taking it to a permitted facility,” Parks said.
If anyone should happen to see something like that, Parks asks that they get a license plate number or snap a picture of it with their smart phone. Please report it as quickly as possible to call JSO Detective Brad Emerson at (904) 665-4477.
A Simultaneous Problem
In addition to the increase in grease, JEA has another problem plaguing all its plants: baby wipes and adult wipes that likely say they’re flushable or biodegradable on the side of the box.
“They don’t degrade in the short amount of time they’re in the sewer system,” Parks said. Instead they remain intact and form a tough ball of material that’s a nasty mess when bound together with the grease.
Parks said these wipes come from both residential sources and also institutions like nursing homes and health care facilities. He asks that everyone dispose of used wipes in the trash, not by flushing them into the wastewater treatment system.