An estimated one thousand gallons of grease has been dumped into the Beatrice sewer system, clogging sewer lines and shutting down the waste water treatment plant for a time.
Clean-up is underway, but is not completed.
Beatrice Public Works Manager Tobias Tempelmeyer says the material has the consistency of Crisco.
“The first problem is that when it gets down there it almost (is) like it solidifies and shuts the plant down so it doesn’t function properly. That’s the first problem we’re having,” Templemeyer tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KWBE. “Then our guys are spending all day cleaning it up. They spent all day yesterday and all day today so far cleaning up the mess that we’ve got.”
Tempelmeyer says city crews have begun a painstaking clean-up process.
“We’re cleaning it up by hand. It solidified that much. When it gets into the clarifiers they have to go in with a shovel and physically remove it from the plant,” according to Tempelmeyer.
Tempelmeyer says an investigation has been launched.
“Sounds like it’s commercial. It’s a significant amount of vegetable oil. This isn’t just the guy at home who had the turkey fryer out for Easter. It’s not that, but we’re still trying to track that down,” Tempelmeyer says.
Tempelmeyer says the problem could cause permanent damage to the wastewater treatment plant, though crews have been able to keep it operating off-and-on with only minor repairs.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has asked the city to take samples of the material. Criminal charges could be filed.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, contributed to this story.