By Lisa Zawaski, senior water quality engineer, city of Dana Point and Linda Homscheid, public Information officer, South Coast Water District
The holiday season brings us joy by spending quality time with family and friends and indulging in rich foods. During this season when cooking is at an all time high, we need to be extra careful and take care of our sanitary sewer system. Why?
Fats, oils and grease from cooking that are poured down the kitchen drain can clog your private sewer line that connects your home or business to the South Coast Water District’s sewer main line under the street. A sewage back-up at your home, office or party location—whether a local residence, restaurant or hotel—would be a major party pooper. Literally.
Avoid Beach Bummers
Fats, oils and grease that get into your private sewer line can also get into the District’s sewer main line and obstruct it. This is a leading cause of sewage overflowing from manholes into the street, down storm drains and into the ocean.
This results in yellow and red signs posted on the beach saying: “Keep Out, Sewage Contaminated Water,” and the County Health Department closing the water to swimming for at least three days. Sewage spills that reach the beach not only impact our community and the local environment but also our local economy.
Stash It, Trash It
For this reason, never put used cooking fats, oils or grease down the kitchen sink. It makes no difference whether you pour boiling water with them or break up fatty scraps in a garbage disposal. Over time, your pipeline can clog and back up. The one and only thing to do with used fats, oils and grease is to throw them out in the trash. We suggest collecting them in a can or jar, putting a lid on it, keeping it in the freezer until it’s full, and then throwing it out with the garbage.
If you would like a reusable plastic lid for your kitchen “grease container” that fits most cans and/or a stainless steel mesh sink screen to catch food scraps before they go down the drain, call South Coast Water District at 949.499.4555, extension 0. (Maximum two items each per household).
Dispose of Garbage Disposals
Another good tip is to minimize—or better yet eliminate—the use of garbage disposal units, also known as food grinders. The simple and effective alternative is to use a mesh sink screen over the drain. Food scraps are caught in it and can be composted or disposed of periodically.
Many restaurants and hotels that prepare and serve food have already come to the conclusion that eliminating food grinders in their sinks cuts down on electricity and repair costs, as well as the potential for clogged sewer lines.
In the South Coast Water District service area, installation of food grinders is prohibited in new food serving establishments and removal of food grinders is required in establishments that are changing ownership or undergoing major remodeling of their kitchens.
If you recently bought a restaurant in the South Coast Water District service area or plan to remodel your current establishment, you are required to install a grease interceptor, if one has not already been installed.
If you need or want to install a grease interceptor, the City of Dana Point and South Coast Water District have a Grease Management Rebate Program that may be right for you. Under the program, you can get cash back to cover up to 50 percent of the cost to install a properly-sized grease interceptor for your establishment.
Contact Lisa Zawaski at the City of Dana Point at 949.248.3584 or Ron Cestari at South Coast Water District at 949.499.4555 for rebate program details. Funds are limited, the program is offered on a first-come first-served basis and you must meet specific eligibility criteria.
If everyone does their part, we can keep the holiday season flowing smoothly this year. Happy Holidays!