Grease dumping causing problems at Akron’s water facility; City searches for culprits

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AKRON, Ohio - For the past six months, grease has been intermittently clogging and damaging equipment at Akron's water reclamation facility.

"We are talking about large loads of grease that we are spending countless hours of time manpower cleaning up the equipment," said Vince Zampelli, the plant superintendent.

The grease was tested at the University of Akron, and water reclamation services  manager Brian Gresser said it is believed to have come from local restaurants, which are required to collect it then have it hauled to a facility for disposal.

"It could be restaurant grease. It's not from a car. It's large loads probably from restaurants and homes, wherever large loads are collected," Zampelli said.

One theory is that the hauler, instead of taking it to a proper disposal facility,  is pumping it into a sanitary sewer manhole in a remote location to avoid paying the disposal fees that have already been collected from the restaurants. Finding the offender is no easy task.

"We have a very vast collection system. We have over 20,000 manholes in our system spread out over 860 miles of sewer main and it would be very difficult for us to try and find and monitor every manhole in the system," Gresser said.

Gresser said it could take as much as 18 from the time the grease is dumped to get through the maze of pipes leading to the treatment plant. That means even though the large loads of grease have been primarily seen during the daytime, they could have been dumped sometime during the night.

"If it's gummed up, not working properly, that's equipment that's down. That's equipment that we need to spend an awful lot of time cleaning it up and if you have got just a little bit of grease on your floor, you know how difficult it is to clean up. Well, imagine large amounts of grease in mechanical equipment," Zampelli said.

If anyone has any information on the grease-dumping culprit, please call 311.

"What we are asking the public is to keep their eyes and ears open. If they see something that doesn't look normal, if they see a tanker truck maybe backed up in the woods or have a hose dropped into a manhole, call and let us know," Gresser said.