Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's deputy web editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When poured down the drain, fats, cooking oils and greases (FOG) solidify and clog pipes. The price for repairs falls on both the government and the guilty party that improperly disposed of the FOG (via taxes). To avoid the costly repairs, municipalities in Texas (such as Austin, Houston and Dallas) encourage their residents to throw these substances away in the trash or recycle large amounts of grease and oil. In Dallas, where the substances were responsible for 60 to 70 percent of sewer blockages, the water utility is using cooking oil it collects (5,600 gallons from September to April) to convert it into bio-fuel for school buses, saving more than $100,000 in fuel costs for 1,000 buses. Before finding a use for the oil, Dallas had already successfully decreased the number of grease-related sewer blockages from 112 in FY 2005 to just eight in FY 2010. The sharp drop can be attributed to the introduction of drop-off locations at various colleges and businesses that allow people to bring their used cooking oil (of at least 1 liter) at any hour of any day as well as the "Cease the Grease" program's public outreach efforts. The city is now working to find a way to convert fats and greases into electricity, according to Helen Cantril Dulac of Dallas Water Utilities.