FOG (an acronym for fats, oils and grease) is a major issue for homeowners, cities, states and the environment; however, it is not normally at the forefront of conversations about pollution. The problem with FOG pollution is that it is silent—it accumulates in sewer pipes and waterways slowly and steadily over time before it is deemed a “problem”.
For example, in Colorado, ducks started to become ill and were rapidly dying at a local pond. People noticed a strange film floating on top of the water and subsequently covering the ducks. After lab testing, it was determined that cooking oil was introduced into the water source upstream months earlier. Cooking oil in our waterways is a silent pollutant and catching those illegally dumping it is nearly impossible. While illegal dumping of cooking oil is a major problem, a lack of education around FOG and its proper disposal is at the center of the issue.
Facts About FOG (fats, oils & grease) Waste
- FOG (fats, oils & grease) is found in the following—meat fats, lard, cooking oil, shortening, butter/margarine, food scraps, baking goods, sauces, and dairy products. Many common household cooking staples contain FOG.
- Cooking oil, such as canola and olive oil, float on water and adhere to sewer pipes. This is the way in which pipes start to become blocked. The excess oil adheres to pipes, and slowly begins to accumulate until your pipe is completely blocked and you experience a sewage backup into your home.
The EPA states that: Animal fats and vegetable oils are regulated under 40 CFR 112, which has identical requirements for petroleum and non-petroleum oils. Petroleum oils, vegetable oils, and animal fats share common physical properties and produce similar environmental effects. Like petroleum oils, vegetable oils and animal fats and their constituents can:
- Cause devastating physical effects, such as coating animals and plants with oil and suffocating them by oxygen depletion;
- Be toxic and form toxic products;
- Destroy future and existing food supplies, breeding animals, and habitats;
- Produce rancid odors;
- Foul shorelines, clog water treatment plants, and catch fire when ignition sources are present; and
- Form products that linger in the environment for many years.
FOG Is An Expensive Problem
Cities and states around the world are spending millions to combat the issue of FOG pollution and the havoc it is causing on their sewer systems.
- In New York City, grease causes 71 percent of sewer backups, according to the city’s 2016 State of the Sewers report. The city spent $18 million over five years fighting fatbergs. National Geographic
- The Canadian city of Vancouver estimates that removing the buildup from cooking oils, fats, and grease costs the metro area and its municipalities nearly $2 million per year. Vancouver Sun
- The City of Portland spends an average of $100,000 a year cleaning and repairing sewer lines clogged by grease, and about $12 million a year to treat wastewater containing high concentrations of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and food waste. Portland, Oregon
- Smaller cities aren’t immune; Ft. Wayne, Indiana, has spent half a million dollars a year cleaning grease out of sewers. National Geographic
While waste facilities are doing the cleaning and trying to combat the issue of FOG, you are paying for it through taxes. FOG pollution effects all of us in a myriad of ways.
Why It’s Vital to Properly Dispose of Fats, Oils & Grease After Cooking
Our fragile ecosystems and waterways depend on us disposing of harmful contaminants in a proper manner. When FOG (fats, oils and grease) are introduced into the environment through illegal dumping or sewer overflows we are contaminating our watershed, drinking water, and the homes of thousands of animals. “Water pollution is a serious issue in the United States that all too often gets swept under the rug. Not only does pollution contaminate our drinking water, it also harms innocent wildlife and destroys entire ecosystems.” (Natural News)
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