Dothan City Commissioners have approved a $264,000 civil penalty settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Alabama's Department of Environmental Management for violations of the “Clean Water Act.”
"The sewage was overrunning. It's a health issue and it's an issue the city needs to be prepared to continue to take care of,” Mayor Mike Schmitz said.
In 2008, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management filed a complaint against the city of Dothan regarding sewer problems.
The city entered into an administrative order with the EPA in 2012, agreeing to meet certain requirements to overhaul the sewage system.
"We had great growth on the west side and our sewage system wasn't updated to keep up with it so we had to build a new plant which we've done. It's working great and we've resolved those issues but because of that the lawsuit has been going on for years,” Schmitz said.
The settlement means the city won't face litigation expenses resulting from the two actions.
"That's good news, it ends the lawsuit we've been involved in for many years and we can move forward and just work on the system itself,” Schmitz said.
A big part of the system's issues is F.O.G and I'm not talking about the weather.
Fats, oils and grease aren't great for your body.
When they get into the sewage system they can have the same affect.
"Just like cholesterol plugs up your arteries, think of the sewer system that way. Whenever you get a clogged up artery it causes problems upstream and that's a major cause of the sanitary sewer overloads,” City of Dothan Planning Director Todd McDonald said.
That's why as a part of the EPA's administrative order requirements, the city will create a program to control what FOGs go into the wastewater collection system.
Starting Friday, June 6th 696 food service establishments will get a survey regarding their grease interception methods.
"They wouldn't all be considered restaurants but they are places that make foot and could possibly wash fat, or grease or salad dressing down the drain. It's a problem. For a city our size, I’d venture yes that it probably is more than our share. That's probably in direct relation to we're on the way to the beach, it's a good market,” McDonald said.
Once all of the surveys are collected, it will give the city a better idea of how much FOG volumes will need to be treated and disposed.
"We're trying to get ahead of it because if you ever get behind, they don't place nice and we don't want to be in the position where we're in the disadvantaged side of the equation,” McDonald said.
McDonald says the community can help with the sewage system problems too, by disposing of their own grease properly and not just dumping it down the drain.