Jacob Johnson of Horizon Earthworks, a Langley City contractor, puts a high pressure hose into a sewer entrance on Michaud Crescent. High pressure water is needed to clean out grease buildup. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Jacob Johnson of Horizon Earthworks, a Langley City contractor, puts a high pressure hose into a sewer entrance on Michaud Crescent. High pressure water is needed to clean out grease buildup. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Jacob Johnson of Horizon Earthworks, a Langley City contractor, puts a high pressure hose into a sewer entrance on Michaud Crescent. High pressure water is needed to clean out grease buildup. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times) Jacob Johnson of Horizon Earthworks, a Langley City contractor, puts a high pressure hose into a sewer entrance on Michaud Crescent. High pressure water is needed to clean out grease buildup. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley City fights sewer clogs with education, powerful machinery

FOGs – fats, oils, and greases – can block up sewers and cost cities a lot of money

Langley City is taking aim at grease, before it clogs up the sewers and costs the taxpayers to clean up.

A recent letter to some downtown businesses gave them tips on how to keep fats, oil, and greases (FOGs) out of the drains, and a reminder that fines from Metro Vancouver can be up to $10,000 for violations.

“Dealing with the grease issue has been an ongoing problem,” said Kyle Simpson, engineering operations manager with Langley City.

The problem with pouring grease down a sink’s drain is that it doesn’t just wash out to a sewage treatment plant.

Instead, a portion of it will stick to the inside of the pipes. Over time, if there is too much grease in the drainage system, that can even block pipes.

The worst case scenario – not one the City has had to deal with yet – is the creation of “fatbergs,” huge obstructions in large pipes that are extremely difficult and expensive to remove.

Those are often caused when grease combines with paper products that aren’t designed to be flushed, like wet wipes.

“The grease clings to them, they combine together and cause bigger blockages,” said Simpson.

For general buildup of FOGs in the City sewer system, the municipal government has to do flushing with high-pressure water. Crews with large trucks have to thread a hose down into the sewer and blast out a length of pipe.

“Typically, they go manhole to manhole,” said Simpson.

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The crews have to flush out the sewer system on a regular schedule. Too much grease buildup means that these high-pressure cleanings have to take place more frequently.

There can also be extra wear and tear on pumps, which require more frequent maintenance.

“It has caused damage over the years,” said Simpson.

The City clears up local sewer issues, but investigation and tracking back buildups of FOGs is handled by Metro Vancouver, which runs the regional water and sewer systems.

Grease buildups can be found through annual video inspections the City conducts of its sewer mains, and if there’s an issue, the first process is to warn local businesses with a letter.

“It’s hard to pinpoint an exact business,” said Simpson.

But if City bylaw officers do find a business that is discharging a lot of grease, they will notify metro Vancouver’s Regulation and Enforcement Division.

The main thing for restaurants and industrial businesses that produce grease to do is to have a proper grease trap installed.

But Simpson noted that even private homes can contribute a significant amount of grease.


Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

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EnvironmentinfrastructureLangley CityMetro Vancouver