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Mysterious sludge clogging Orem wastewater plant

OREM — Officials at Orem’s wastewater treatment plant are asking the public to help them find those responsible for dumping a mysterious sludge into the sewer system, clogging it up.

Over the past three to four months, crews have had to stop operations at the plant almost weekly to deal with the mess, water reclamation manager Lawrence Burton said.

“It's causing us a lot of damage in the facility,” Burton said. “We have to run our pumps a lot more.”

It takes up to 96 to 100 hours of manpower — and “many thousands of dollars” — to clean up one dump, he said.

The plant treats 8 million gallons of wastewater a day to pump back into Utah Lake.

“We do a big service to the city, to clean this water and get it back to useable quality,” Burton said. “Everything that comes out of a house, through the toilet, or the sink, or the shower, or the dishwasher all comes here.”

But with more than 6,000 possible dumpsites in the city, the source is hard to trace, he said.

“They're pulling up to a manhole in some obscure place, pulling the lid off and dumping it into the system,” Burton said.

While the gunk has been tested and determined not to be harmful, Burton said it’s been a headache.

If caught, those responsible could face thousands of dollars in fines, but officials say they don't plan to prosecute anyone. They just want to find out who's doing it and tell them to quit.

“Ultimately our goal is just to get it stop,” Burton said.