FOG Pretreatment

How pretreatment can extend the life of your aging sewer infrastructure

Aging sewer system manhole coverThe EPA estimates the total number miles of sewer lines snaking across the country to be about 1.2 million. Considering some of these lines are over 100 years old, local governments will spend billions of dollars modernizing failing wastewater systems over the next 10 to 20 years.

Because this aging infrastructure has survived decades of wear, tear and obstruction, decreasing its capability to withstand heavy demands, the probability of blockages and backups increases over time. And those blockages and backups are very likely to lead to the release of pollutants.

Not only do those pollutants threaten public health, they can also lead to fines and other enforcement actions from state and federal agencies. But there are things that regulators and waste water system users can do to reduce the burden on aging treatment systems, decrease costs and increase efficiencies.

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Why concrete interceptors ought to be left in the history books

Concrete grease trapIn 1884, Nathaniel Whiting patented the first grease interceptor design. These oversized, concrete boxes are still the default choice for many in the food-service industry.

Though innovative at the time, the design of these concrete interceptors has changed very little over the past 130 years and is fraught with problems in today’s world. 

Traditional concrete interceptors range in size from 300 or so gallons to several thousand. Though there are a few different designs, they all rely on the same principle — gravity.

Wastewater from a commercial kitchen flows down through the tank, where food particles sink to the bottom and oil rises to the top. The grease-free water in the middle then exits the tank and enters the public sewage lines.

Though these grease interceptors do the job, they don't necessarily do it well, do it efficiently or do it economically.  

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Grease interceptor design: A life-or-death decision

Hydrogen sulfide warning signThink about the grease interceptor in your food service establishment.

You’ve seen it labor on through long days, lunch rushes followed by full-house dinners — the silent workhorse of the kitchen that helps keep your commercial kitchen environmentally friendly.

But, did you know that the design of your grease trap could have potentially devastating effects on the health of your kitchen staff?

When not properly designed and maintained, grease traps can become a breeding ground for bacteria that release hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a pungent and sometimes deadly gas. This gas can cause health problems, which is bad enough. In addition, though, the gas can damage some grease interceptors, reducing their lifespans and creating potentially higher costs.

Fortunately, this isn't inevitable. Learn more about the dangers of hydrogen sulfide and how that should figure into your grease intereceptor decisions. 

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5 Tools for an effective pretreatment program

Test tubes

It’s been said many times: “The best defense is a good offense.” 

Noncompliance with pretreatment regulations creates serious problems, both for the violator and for the wastewater system operator.

While ordinances, fines and consistent enforcement are essential, they are not sufficient for effective pretreatment. After all, the goal of a pretreatment program is to maintain water quality, reduce the load on water treatment plants and minimize sewer system maintenance costs.

The best way to achieve those goals is to prevent pretreatment ordinance violations in the first place.

Here are five key tools that every effective pretreatment program should have. Combined, these elements can reduce the enforcement burden while also maintaining a cleaner, more efficient wastewater treatment system.

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A primer on commercial kitchen FOG waste

Frying eggs and baconIt’s not very often that wastewater system workers are hailed as heroes in the headlines around the world. But in August 2013, that’s what happened.

News media around the world picked up the story of London’s ‘fatberg,’ a bus-sized, 33,000-pound mass of fats, oils and grease that had clogged an 8-foot diameter sewer line.

The English newspaper The Guardian reported:

A sewage worker has become an unlikely hero after taking three weeks to defeat a toxic 15-tonne ball of congealed fat the size of a bus that came close to turning parts of the London borough of Kingston upon Thames into a cesspit.”

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Why point-source grease interceptors may be the ideal choice


W-250-IS Model 40kIf you own a restaurant or other business within the foodservice industry, chances are good you’re already using some sort of grease interceptor. If not, sooner or later you’ll likely face clogged pipes, back-ups into your kitchen and costly fines.

In the United States, there are three types of grease interceptors generally found within the foodservice industry: small passive hydromechanical grease interceptors (sometimes referred to as grease traps), larger grease interceptors made out of plastic, fiberglass, steel or concrete, and automatic grease removal devices. Though using any of these options is better than nothing, all grease traps are not created equally and, as technology improves, so do grease interceptors.

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Five ways to make your commercial kitchen safer

Chefs in motionPicture a commercial kitchen during peak rush -- the staff hurriedly prepares food while wait staff bustles in to retrieve orders and bring in stacks of dirty dishes, all in the presence of hot ovens, slippery floors and boiling pots. 

So, what can you do to make sure your kitchen is as safe as possible? Check out the tips below. Read on to learn some basic safety principles and tips that can help reduce the risk of injury, decrease insurance costs and keep your commercial kitchen running smoothly. 

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Replacing a grease trap? Here's a few factors to consider

Big Dipper grease interceptor

Replacing a hydromechanical grease interceptor, also referred to as a grease trap, can be smelly, expensive and unpleasant. But if you operate a food service establishment and need a new one, you don’t have much choice.

In nearly all jurisdictions, commercial kitchens are required to have a grease interceptor to keep fats, oil and grease out of the sewer system. Coagulated grease is responsible for thousands — perhaps millions — of sewer blockages around the world, are expensive to clear and make sewer systems more costly to operate.

Your existing grease trap may have corroded or degraded so much that it no longer works.

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Expert viewpoint: From treating waste to harnessing resources

Bob Rubin - wastewater treatment expertDr. A. Robert “Bob" Rubin is an emeritus professor and former extension specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University. He spent more than a quarter century there doing research, teaching and public service. He’s testified before Congress, spoken to international meetings of researchers and policy experts and been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for his service. He was kind enough to talk to us about the changes he’s seen in the last 30-plus years in wastewater treatment and what he expects in the coming years.

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Increases in Eating Out Put More Pressure on Pretreatment

Sandwich and friesChanging demographics and lifestyles are producing greater strains on water treatment systems and could threaten water quality. Surprised? It’s true. And we’re not just talking about the strain of a growing population.
 
Since the 1970s, the amount of food consumed at restaurants or purchased from take-out spots has increased dramatically. And with that, comes more commercial kitchen wastewater entering the sewers.
 
2006 USDA study, for example, found that from the 1970s to the 1990s, the percent of daily calories from meals purchased away from home increased from 18 percent to 32 percent. And from 1974 to 2004, away-from-home spending grew from 34 percent of total food dollars to about half of all food expenditures.
 

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