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Montgomery County water officials 'exhausted' from Lent fish fry grease clogging pipes

A CCTV image of the interior of a sewer line. About two-thirds of the image shows a white substance.
Montgomery County
A Montgomery County Environmental Services official said they'll go into a sewer line with a camera to check the cause problems. The white stuff is all grease build-up.

Fish fries are a popular tradition in the Dayton region during the Lenten season. Montgomery County water officials have a close up look at just how popular.

That’s because Montgomery County Environmental Services staff have seen an influx of grease coming down the pipes and entering their two water reclamation facilities in Kettering and West Carrollton.

This is the third year in a row they have dealt with this seasonal problem.

“It became a really big problem. It was very labor intensive. And it was costly for Montgomery County to keep up,” said Water Reclamation Manager Donnie Hartman. “And our employees were exhausted from trying to keep up.”

This year the county has already had to foot a $4,000 dollar bill for a chemical to separate grease from county water. And previously, they’ve had to hire outside contractors to help the county dispose of the grease, said Hartman.

“The big problem is as grease builds up on the sewer walls of the pipe, you lose space for water to flow,” Hartman explained. “And eventually, it plugs up and the water goes to the path of least resistance. Could be your home, could be in your streets.”

The county maintains thousands of miles of sewer lines, which makes maintenance and removal of oils and grease more challenging, he said.

Though, people should be aware of grease build-up year-round. Grease can take years to build up in pipes before you might see it become a problem.

People should dispose of grease by putting it into a heat proof container, wait for it to solidify, then toss it into the trash.

Montgomery County Environmental Services also has a household hazardous waste drop-off location in Moraine.

Adriana Martinez-Smiley (she/they) is the Environment and Indigenous Affairs Reporter for WYSO. They grew up in Hamilton, Ohio and graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism in June 2023. Before joining WYSO, her work has been featured in NHPR, WBEZ and WTTW.

Email: amartinez-smiley@wyso.org
Cell phone: 937-342-2905