The bottom line is that our sewer collection systems can only do so much. As we continue to add to the number of homes and food service establishments they must serve, we also increase the burden on the sewer infrastructure, lift stations, and wastewater treatment plants, which face a difficult task in cleaning the waste coming from these various sources.
Since the creation of the Clean Water Act in 1972, sewer districts have been regulating the pretreatment - any treatment of wastewater before it reaches the sewer collection system - of industrial waste and the overall cleanliness of the water being discharged from the wastewater treatment plant. As federal standards have gotten tighter, these sewer districts found new ways to improve their process at the treatment plant, but this improved water quality comes at a cost, which increases exponentially as the standards get higher.
For this reason, sewer districts have increasingly looked for ways to improve the quality of the discharged water from other sources such as restaurants, hospitals, and large institutions with food service like prisons and schools. Pretreatment standards have been implemented which target the most harmful or difficult to deal with discharges, including fats, oils, and grease.
Fats, oils, and grease, or FOG as it is commonly called, cause significant difficulties for sewer districts and their infrastructure. It fills up lift stations and block pipes causing sanitary sewer overflows and costing the city thousands of dollars a year in line maintenance, repairs, and fines. Many municipalities are moving towards requiring the implementation of grease interceptors at the facility to protect the jurisdiction's infrastructure. This does shift the financial burden to the food service facility, sometimes unfairly as certain pretreatment ordinances overreach and require unnecessarily large, inefficient systems to be installed.
Effective pretreatment ordinances ensure that food service establishments and food processing plants have pretreatment systems in place, but leave it up to individual operators to determine the best kind of pretreatment system, provided it continues to operate efficiently and keep grease out of the sewers.
A coffee shop, after all, will have different needs than a university dining hall, and those in turn will be different than a food processing plant.
Thermaco offers a model pretreatment ordinance to help local regulators implement effective regulations:
If you need additional technical help or have questions, our engineers are happy to answer questions and suggest solutions to specific challenges you may face.