Baltimore County Now
Chris Korpman, Engineer III
Baltimore County Public Works
There is FOG in the sewers –but it’s not that misty stuff that fills the air. The term “F.O.G.” stands for fats, oils and grease. Originating in our kitchens, it clogs sanitary sewer systems across Baltimore County and is a harmful threat to the environment. When poured or washed down the drain, FOG builds up on pipe walls, restricting the flow of wastewater exiting our home’s plumbing.
Over time, FOG leads to blockages that result in overflows into our homes or onto our streets, down storm drains, and into local waterways, all posing a serious risk to public health.
The 10 most common sources of FOG are:
- Cooking Oil
- Fat trimmings
- Butter and Lard
- Baking Goods
- Dairy Products
- Food Scraps
Put Fats, oil and grease where they belong…
Never pour F.O.G. into your sink or toilet. Rather, dispose of F.O.G. into a small can, storing in the freezer until full. When it’s full, throw it into the trash.
When there is F.O.G. residue in a pan or on a dish, wipe it with a paper towel before washing and throw the towel in the trash.
Place a strainer in the kitchen sink drain to catch food scraps and other solids, then empty the strainer into the trash.
Please keep this in mind during your holidays and remember, "Cease the Grease."
Public Information Specialist
Baltimore County Bureau of Solid Waste Management
For the next few weeks we’re right in the thick of it when it comes to leaf collection. Each year from the beginning of April to the middle of December, Baltimore County provides a special yard materials recycling collection, once every two weeks, to 70 percent (165,000) of the County’s individual and townhomes. Materials such as grass, leaves, and small brush are collected and taken to the Eastern Sanitary Landfill Solid Waste Management Facility (ESL) in White Marsh for composting. The goal of this program is to reduce the amount of organic matter that is being landfilled. In 2013 approximately 11,000 tons of yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program were processed into compost.
County residents may also take yard materials and brush and branches to two of the County’s drop-off facilities for recycling. More than 17,200 tons of these items were taken to ESL and approximately 4,100 tons were taken to the Central Acceptance Facility (CAF) in 2013.
What happens to the grass, leaves and brush?
The items dropped off at CAF are processed into compost and mulch by Hollins Organic Products, Inc. The yard materials from the County’s Yard Materials Recycling Collection Program and the yard materials and brush and branches taken to ESL by residents are processed into compost and mulch by the County at ESL.
Large tree branches and tree trunks are run through a large piece of equipment called a tub grinder to make mulch. The smaller material (grass, leaves, and small brush) is piled in long rows called windrows. Another large piece of equipment, appropriately named a windrow turner, moves over the rows using rotating blades to break down, mix and aerate the material. This process of “turning” helps to create the proper conditions for efficient composting (“nature’s recycling program”) of the material. Depending on the weather and other factors, the material will generally stay in these rows roughly 90 days. This material is then run through a trommel screen to remove large and unwanted debris. The compost is then piled up, where it continues to “cure” until it is ready for use.
Compost is decomposed organic material (humus) that helps to enrich and condition the soil. Mulch is “shredded” wood that is used around plants, bushes, and trees as ground cover, and helps to protect root systems from the cold.
Free compost and mulch for residents
Baltimore County residents may pick up compost and mulch, free of charge, from ESL (6259 Days Cove Road, White Marsh, MD 21162). Before going to ESL, call the Solid Waste Management customer service number (410-887-2000) to check on the availability of compost and mulch. Residents will need to bring and fill their own containers.
DIY is best bet
Collecting and processing yard materials is a big and expensive task, so residents are encouraged to “lend a hand” and handle their yard materials at home, through methods such as grasscycling, leafcycling and home composting. For more information about these easy to do methods, check out www.baltimorecountymd.gov/publicworks/recycling.
Keith Duerling, P.E.
Structures Division, Bureau of Engineering
Department of Public Works
Baltimore County has 675 bridges of all sizes – from major spans that carry thousands of cars each day, to culverts which are merely drain pipes allowing small streams to flow under roads. But whether the structures are big or small, they all deserve (and get!) the same careful, regular inspection which ensures the safety of the traveling public.
Baltimore County classifies its bridges by length: structures over 20 feet and structures under 20 feet. Bridges are inspected every two years by a qualified, engineering company. These consultants are selected by the Maryland State Highway Administration for Baltimore County and the cost of the inspections is borne by the Federal government. Bridges that are less than 20 feet are handled in much the same way, except that the County selects the bridge inspectors and the State of Maryland pays for 80% of the inspection cost.
During the inspection process, engineers assess the condition of (1) bridge decks (i.e. the travel surface), (2) the superstructure, (3) the substructure, (4) the condition of the structure exposed to rivers, streams and runs, and (5) the condition of culverts. Inspection is a hands-on exercise and crews visually take the spans apart looking for signs of aging, deterioration, cracks, structural movement or any telltale sign of wear and tear. On occasion, steel structures may require ultrasonic testing, but most of the examinations depend on engineering knowledge and experience. Potential problems are described and assessed in detailed written reports and any bridge with negative indicators is put on a repair or replacement schedule.
Bridge safety is of paramount importance in the County because the Department of Public Works and its engineers recognize that there are no second chances when it comes to bridge safety. Every traffic-bearing structure in Baltimore County is continuously monitored and rigorously inspected every two years. In short, structural problems are addressed well before they can impinge upon travel safety.