How we create a quality FOG Abatement Program

Posted in: Municipal, Water

Greasetrap300x200Properly managing the fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that impact our sewers is vital. FOGs that go down the drain plug sewer lines, cause sanitary sewer overflows, and cost communities thousands of dollars every year in maintenance and repairs. Even small amounts will accumulate in sewers. As these materials collect, they slowly build bridge-like structures in pipes. This causes backups and interrupts the flow of sanitary waste streams in the sewers. Furthermore, local wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove FOGs.

A well-planned FOG Abatement Program can help mitigate these adverse effects. How do we control what’s dumped down the drain?

  1. Have a solid Sewer Use Ordinance in place requiring grease traps or grease interceptors sized appropriately for the facility being served. The ordinance must have teeth for enforcement. Once this is in place, actively managing the FOG Abatement Program is crucial.
  2. Explain the Why. Education is key to a successful program. When Mead & Hunt begins a FOG Abatement Program, we invite all affected sewer customers to an informational meeting. At the meeting we explain the need for the program and how it will be enforced. This serves to get business owners onboard with the program. We explain that we are not only protecting the community from costly repairs or sanitary sewer overflows; we are protecting businesses from problems caused by their neighbors as well.
  3. Explain the How. How exactly will the program effect facilities? Not every sewer customer will require a grease trap or grease interceptor; for some, simply following Best Management Practices is sufficient. For a facility like this, we require a Best Practices poster posted near the three-compartment sink. If the Best Practices procedures aren’t being followed, the municipality may then require a grease trap to be installed. If there is a grease trap or grease interceptor, proof is required that it’s being cleaned in accordance with National Restaurant Association Standards.
  4. Physically inspect the units. Of course, we can’t just take the facility owner’s word for it that a grease trap has been cleaned. A cleaning schedule may be filled out, but if a leg of the sink is in the middle of the grease trap, you know if it has been cleaned. Regular physical inspection is critical. Make sure the dishwasher drain isn’t directly connected to the trap, make sure the baffles are intact, check the solids level in the bottom, and make sure the unit hasn’t been modified to short circuit. Mead & Hunt has inspected grease traps that appear to be clean and working well, only to find out the bottom of the trap has been filled with bricks or gravel. A meticulous in-person inspection is extremely necessary for an effective program.

While we can never eliminate all sources of FOG in our sewer system, minimizing the impact they have is important. No one wants a giant congealed glob of grease (aka, “fatberg”) the size of a blue whale lurking in the bowels of their sewer system, or to see businesses shut down or need costly, grease-related repairs. Cutting off FOGs at the source as much as possible is key to keeping our sewers flowing freely.

Casey Rose

About the Author

Casey Rose has worked in the wastewater industry for nearly 20 years with experience working for municipalities and consultant contract operations. Casey is well-known for his ability to build a strong relationships with each client and has a robust background in operations, safety, client communication, construction management and fiscal responsibility.

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