Thermaco Blog

Should you go "natural" with biological pre-treatment systems for grease?

Big Dipper Grease InterceptorOrganic and “natural” products and methods enjoy a glowing reputation in the marketplace. They’re able to command higher prices and for many people are a preferred choice when there is a choice.

They’ve made inroads beyond food, too, to products such as apparel (made with organically grown cotton), cosmetics and a variety of products constructed from “sustainable” recycled materials.

It’s not surprising, then, that restaurants and other commercial kitchen operators are interested in biological methods of pretreating grease-laden kitchen effluent. Beyond the attraction of a biologically based treatment system, these methods also hold out the possibility of minimizing pumping and other maintenance required by mechanical separation systems.

But although enzymatic and bacterial treatment solutions are growing in popularity, many questions and challenges remain.

Before considering enzymatic or bacterial solutions, there are a number of factors you need to consider.

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7/30/15 8:45 AM

How a river catching fire led to cleaner water

Discharging sewage into Cuyahoga RiverIn 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire.

The blaze caught the attention of the national media, and Time magazine described the Cuyahoga as a river that “oozes,” rather than flows. There were no fish or other animals in the water, and the concentration of oil and other toxins was so thick that they could actually burn.

The river had become, in effect, a giant grease trap.

And the ’69 fire was not event the first time the river had caught fire, and it by Cuyahoga standards, it was relatively mild. Dating back to the 1860s, the river had caught on fire at least 13 times. In 1952, the largest such fire caused more than $1 million of damage to boats, docks and a riverfront building. But the 1969 fire had a major impact on efforts to clean up the nation's waterways.

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7/28/15 8:43 AM

Seven steps to a clean grease trap the right way

Grease interceptorAs a kid, you probably were given a list of chores from your parents to complete each weekend before your fun could begin. You might have had to clean the toilets or dust the furniture, and chances are good that there was that one chore, week after week, that you despised.

For many kitchen workers, that dreaded chore is cleaning the grease trap. It’s stinky and it’s messy, but someone has to do it.

Though it might seem like an unwelcomed task to whoever is saddled with the responsibility, regular cleaning makes a noticeable difference in terms of cleanliness and efficiency. Cleaning and maintaining the unit properly makes the process a snap, whereas longer periods between cleanings allow the unpleasantness to build up.

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7/23/15 8:42 AM

How Narragansett Bay reaped the rewards of wastewater pretreatment

Narragansett Bay seen from Providence, R.I., 1850-1920.The damage that grease and other pollutants can inflict on the environment is well documented, but few cases illustrate this as well as Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

Narragansett Bay is a prime example of what untreated sewage can do to the environment. However, it’s also a great case study in how pretreatment can help turn around polluted waterways and help reverse the impact of pollution.

The problem began in the 18th century when Rhode Islanders would empty their raw sewage directly into their nearby rivers that flowed into the bay. By the 1970s, nearly 65 million gallons of untreated sewage was flowing into Rhode Island’s waters each day. Grease deposits the size of soccer balls were sometimes seen floating in the bay. The bay’s shellfish beds, which had created a booming industry, were closed.

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7/21/15 8:30 AM

Why rural food service establishments should pretreat

Rural septic fieldIf you live in a rural area, chances are good that you use a septic system to treat your wastewater. If that’s the case, you’re probably careful about what goes down the drain and into the tank. You might, for example, pour any used cooking oil or grease into a disposable container and toss it into the garbage can. Sound familiar?

Though that might be standard practice for residences with on-site sewage management, it’s not exactly a feasible option for commercial entities that produce a high volume of grease, such as restaurants and resorts. To maintain an effective sewage treatment system free of grease clogs, pretreatment is vital.

Keeping grease out of your local sewage system — whether it's a septic field or another treatment process — will save you money and prevent maintenance headaches in the future.

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7/16/15 8:38 AM

Schools require pretreatment options that meet unique challenges

Students and workers in a school cafeteriaA packed-to-the-gills restaurant during dinner rush doesn’t hold a candle to the hustle and bustle — both in and out of the kitchen — of a middle school cafeteria during the lunch hour.

While most restaurants have a leisurely dining room turnover, hundreds of students are cycled through the lunch line and sent out the door with full bellies every thirty minutes in a cafeteria setting. This presents a challenge not only for the front of the house cafeteria staff, but also requires a pretreatment plan that can go with the flow … literally.

School cafeterias feed hundreds — maybe even thousands — of children over a very short period of time. Sometimes, even twice a day. Every aspect of the operation, from the staff to the grease interceptor, needs to run like a well-oiled machine. One clog, one overflow or glitch could shut down the kitchen in an instant. 

But there are solutions.

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7/14/15 8:36 AM

You might be surprised at all the ways grease interceptors protect the environment

Clean river waterThe federal government takes grease seriously. Very seriously. In fact, the Department of Justice is ready, and willing, to issue federal jail time to any individual who knowingly violates the Clean Water Act, a standing tenet of which is proper grease disposal.

Just ask Mobile, Ala.’s DHS Inc. In 2011, the president and manager were charged in a 43-count indictment with violations of the Clean Water Act, as well as conspiracy and fraud. Their company, which was hired to remove the FOGs from grease interceptors, was, ironically, allegedly dumping the collected grease directly into local sewer systems — the same systems they were being paid to protect.

Grease interceptors do more than just keep fats, oils and grease out of the wastewater system. Properly maintained grease intereceptors protect your community's environment in a number of ways.

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7/9/15 8:34 AM

Is it time to dump standardized regulations?

Old barnImagine taking a paintbrush to the broadside of an old barn: Your goal is probably to cover the expanse uniformly with one color. But the result would likely be a lot different if you didn’t consider the number of boards you might have to replace, holes that need patching or nails that need to be driven back into the wood.

If you started blindly painting away without paying attention to each issue, you’d waste time, money and valuable resources.This same principle can be applied to standardized regulations in today’s economy. In an effort to comply with such uniform regulations, businesses waste valuable resources. 

A standardized approach can be more expensive, less effective, and less flexible than other approaches. There are alternatives, though.

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7/7/15 8:31 AM

Prescriptive vs. performance-based regulations — which are better?

There’s no reason why a sandwich shop or an ice cream parlor should be required to use same pretreatment system as a steakhouse … right?Ice cream shop

Wastewater regulations today are often prescriptive, which means that one standard method of pretreatment is required for each of the food service establishments, or other commercial kitchens, in a municipality. Wouldn’t it make more sense, though, to create sanitary codes and ask businesses to develop their own methods of compliance?

Performance-based rules might not only do a better job, but could be cheaper in the long run, too.

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7/2/15 8:27 AM

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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6/30/15 9:21 AM