FOG (fats, oils and grease) can clog up pipes, as pictured here. (Courtesy image)

In John Carpenter’s 1980 supernatural thriller “The Fog,” a mysterious mist haunts a coastal California town and brings with it a horde of ghosts and subsequent gore, as the townspeople must pay for the mistakes they’d made a century prior.

In Telluride, officials are worried about a different type of FOG (fats, oils and grease) and its effects on wastewater systems, particularly how the substances have a tendency to congeal and clog pipes like arteries. If left unattended, the FOG may morph into gross grease giants called “fatbergs,” which is one mistake the town is trying to avoid.

“(Fatbergs form) when fat congeals around all the food stuff and other stuff that's in our wastewater and creates this big blockage,” said Karen Gugliemone, Telluride’s environmental and engineering division manager.

She was in front of Telluride Town Council Tuesday morning in Rebekah Hall providing an update on the town’s FOG ordinance and program when she shared a picture of a fatberg making itself at home in a pipeline.

“I'm sorry to start with that as your first morning photo. It's shocking. … But it gives you an idea and puts you in the shoes of our wastewater operators, to be quite frank,” she said. “ … FOG causes problems in wastewater pipes, not only your household pipes, but all the pipes that go from your house all the way to the wastewater treatment plant. If you've ever had a clogged drain, you kind of understand how it backs up into your house. And our (public works) staff takes it from there. When there are clogs that form in our pipes, once it gets jetted, it goes down to the wastewater plants, where it kind of mucks up the operations there.”

Fighting FOG is nothing new, however, which is why a section to Telluride’s Municipal Code addressing it was created in 2012. The town has worked with San Miguel County public health, including environmental health specialist Chris Smith, since then. Mountain Village has also adopted the same ordinance.

“The new code was intended to decrease the amount of FOG in Telluride’s wastewater to better protect public and private infrastructure, worker safety, and public health,” Gugliemone shared in a staff memo.

The code requires food service establishments (restaurants, cafeterias in schools and grocery store counters) to control FOG at the source by installing a grease control device, regularly cleaning out that device, and keeping records of the clean-out schedule and invoices for hauling away the grease trap cleanings. The same is required for fryer oil.

Gugliemone explained Tuesday that she’s planning to increase outreach and education about the ordinance, including checking in with and reminding food service establishments to keep the required records, if necessary.

“We're reinvigorating the program for outreach and education and enforcement of the FOG ordinance and the FOG management program,” she said.

Civil fines of up to $1,000 are admissible under the code.

Mayor DeLanie Young asked if any changes needed to be made to the existing ordinance. Gugliemone answered there are not any requests or suggestions for changes at the moment. Young also noted that compliance will be important once the new wastewater treatment plant is built and opened.

“We don't want to build this brand-new, sparkly facility and then have issues within the first couple years from something that is preventable,” she said, adding maybe food service establishments should be required to hand over FOG records as part of the business license renewal process.

No decisions were made during Tuesday’s work session, nor did council give staff direction to make any changes to the FOG ordinance and program.

The public should also be aware of the ordinance, Gugliemone said. For example, some ways to reduce the impacts of FOG include dry wiping pots, pans and dishware before placing them in the dishwasher, and then tossing the waste in the trash; and never pouring cooking oil down the drain. If a large amount of cooking oil must be disposed of, she shared a clever trick.

“Get some kitty litter, pour (the cooking oil) on the kitty litter to absorb it, then you can put it in a bag and throw it out as a solid,” she said, adding that liquid should never be put in the trash either.