Commentary: Cease the Grease - Never Pour Oils and Greases Down the Drain

  • Published
  • By 78th Civil Engineering Group - Water Quality Program

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When you finish cooking bacon or sauteing vegetables, it is easy to dump the excess oil and grease down the drain without a second thought. However, oils and grease should never be disposed of down the drain. Even a small amount of these materials (e.g., fuels, motor oil, lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, cooking oil, or animal derived fats [such as bacon grease]), dumped down the drain can build up over the years and ultimately cause backups in the pipe system within your home, at the wastewater treatment plant, or anywhere in between.  

Pipe backups can lead to sewer capacity reduction, increased maintenance costs, shortened infrastructure lifespan, treatment plant upsets, facility closures, harm to fish and plants, odors, human health hazards, and fines levied against Robins Air Force Base.   

What happens if the pipes back up?  Back-ups in pipes may lead to floods within your home or the environment. Back-ups in the environment allow the oil and grease to be washed into storm water runoff systems, which eventually lead to our ponds, lakes, creeks, and rivers. Only a small amount of oil or grease is required to contaminate a large body of water. Backups cost significant time and money to repair.   

Why can’t the Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant or Sanitary Treatment Plant treat oils and greases? At Robins AFB, the IWTP pre-treats metals from wastewater before it enters the STP. At the STP, biological processes require microorganisms to break down organic material in the water. Oil and grease kill these microorganisms so the treatment plant cannot properly treat the wastewater.   

What should I do instead? Used fuel, motor oil, lubricating oil, and hydraulic oil from domestic or official functions should be disposed of at an appropriate location. For example, oils can be recycled at an oil change business or at a permitted hazardous waste facility. Building 359 has tanks for storage of used oil from industrial operations. Contact your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for household waste disposal.

Be sure to label your containers with information about the material that requires disposal. Domestic cooking oils should be poured into a container and disposed of in the trash. Base restaurants are equipped with edible oil tanks for recycling. Spill kits should be used to help clean up spills that occur at the workplace. Soiled rags and other contaminated materials should be containerized and properly disposed.