Bill Batten

Pretreatment Technologies

Why Lifetime Product Support Is More Vital Than Ever

Some things are built to last. Others aren’t. I was struck when I read recently that the average years of marriage before divorce is 7.85 years. The average age of a Big Dipper unit, on the other hand, is nearly twice that, at 12.5 years. Now, that’s a real commitment.


That’s also why we give away thousands of dollars and hours worth of technical support, consulting services, parts, on-site service calls and more every year. A successful commitment goes both ways. We want Big Dipper users to keep their machines in top shape so they don’t fall out of compliance.


The only thing that keeps us from giving away even more of our time and resources is not knowing who owns the majority of our more than 38,000 units operating in the field.


Today and in the future, the link between customer and vendor will be absolutely vital. Why? Consider the struggle restaurant operators are having with hiring. It’s not just food service, either. All service industries are having trouble with staffing, including plumbing.


Restaurant businesses need vendors to step up with the kind of help we provide. We all know optimal service begins with having good customer information to begin with. That’s why we just launched a campaign to compel more customers to register their devices with us.


The more we know about their Big Dippers ahead of time, the faster we can find the solution that keeps them compliant.


A Better Analogy


Really, a Big Dipper unit is more like a beloved high-mileage car that has reached 200,000 miles because its owner followed all the routine servicing and parts replacement guidelines. Thousands of Big Dipper units are operating in their third decade because their owners have had parts replaced from normal wear.


But again, the problem is how to get the unknown thousands of other Big Dipper units in contact with us so we can help keep their Big Dipper units running efficiently for another twenty or more years. Our phone, chat, websiteYouTube channel, live technical support, and other services are all free to help them do so.


Your Crucial Role


The majority of Big Dippers units in the field were sold by plumbing wholesalers to local plumbers. We don’t have records showing exactly where these units were installed.


We often gain this information AFTER a pretreatment professional has visited a site and found a Big Dipper unit in need of repairs or upgrades. We urge pretreatment personnel to encourage all Big Dipper owners on their systems to reach out to Thermaco for technical support.


What is technical support? Literally everything from teaching new restaurant personnel how to empty a strainer basket to assessing the mechanical condition of a 20-year-old unit. Big Dipper support videos cover all situations, and we have live-staffed phone support ready to help.


We also provide training on how to utilize point-source grease and solids removal in all types of environments, from simple kiosks to complex institutional sites. For example, we often help sites with existing large concrete separators meet effluent requirements via installation of up-stream point source grease and solids capture equipment.


The range of possibilities is vast, but we have four decades experience helping sites meet local pretreatment effluent requirements. Our goal is simple. To strengthen our commitment to our existing customers and, by extension, to you and your peers in the pretreatment field.


Please ask if your FSEs with Big Dippers have registered. If they haven’t, they can do so quickly and easily here:

Stress Testing Universally Held Understandings in Pretreatment

Stokes Law

Testing your assumptions is always good as a pretreatment professional because so many variables impact your job. New technology and data can compel you to change some of your longest-held beliefs. 

Is it possible to assume there are universally held “technical understandings” that solve nearly all fats/oils/grease issues?  Are there other universally held “technical understandings” that are expected to solve TSS, BOD, pH, and other pretreatment/collection system issues?  How did these “universally held technical understandings” come about and why are they still the tail that wags the proverbial dog?

This post questions a few of these universally long-held “technical understandings.”

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How to Exert the Maximum Influence in FOG Compliance

In the late 1980s, The Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) provided a great example of how to maximize control when it carried out one of the most effective Pretreatment programs I've seen in my career. It had to implement an audacious pretreatment program to reduce downstream wastewater treatment plant loadings sufficient to meet the EPA’s first Marine Estuary Guidelines. The NBC was in a tough spot.

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3-Legged Stool Approach To Total Grease Management

3-Legged Stool Approach To Total Grease Management

Pretreatment’s Three-Legged Stool

A simple, yet effective way to explain on-site pretreatment is to use a three-legged stool analogy.

A three-legged stool works only when all three legs are the same length and angle and have the same strong attachment to the stool seat. If any leg is shorter, at a different angle, or loosely connected to the seat, the stool is unstable.

The same is true for onsite pretreatment. A food service establishment (FSE) may have

Leg 1: The right grease separator and
Leg 2: Good servicing (pumping frequency and quality)

But if it has poor internal management practices (Leg 3), the FSE will send higher than allowed waste into the sewer system.

Likewise, a site skimping on pumping (Leg 2) will handicap its proper technology (Leg 1) and best management practices (Leg 3). Upcoming blog posts delve into practical information for each of these legs. We begin with Best Management Practices 101.

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Long periods of inactivity hurt seals, fuel systems, and moving parts of most mechanical systems. That’s why many automobiles don’t like it.  Gas-powered lawn mowers and string trimmers don’t like it. Grease separators don’t like it either. 


The inactivity caused by pandemic shutdowns can make some grease interceptors more hazardous to your health. Let’s find out why by taking a closer look at what happens in separators with little or no input flows.

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About Grease Separator Testing Methods:  North American and European Standards

Did you know the North American and European testing standards for certifying grease separators have nothing in common literally?

One is predominately a performance standard, a batch flow test simulating kitchen sink discharge. The other is mostly a design standard, a continuous flow test simulating floor drains receiving oily water flows. 

Both tests become more difficult to pass with higher flow rates. As a manufacturer, we respect the local codes and standards.  It is why we test our products to all applicable standards.

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The Curious Case of the Smelly Blob

I’m not fond of unsolved mysteries. When a service contractor stumped us with a problem in the late 1990s, the issue nagged at me.

The contractor told us about gelatinous masses building up in a handful of grease separators. The masses smelled terrible, he said, and the separators had surprisingly low water input flows.

We tried figuring out what the gel was. We ran tests in our lab. We looked online. We consulted wastewater treatment professionals and scientists. We couldn’t come up with anything.

Whenever I thought about the gel, I kept picturing the monster from the 1958 cinematic classic, The Blob.

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The Science That Saved Septic Fields

Each state has its own unique environmental challenges and aims. You learn a lot by attending state conferences.


I recall a trip to the Florida Department of Health Conference in 1986 or 1987 when the buzz was about a growing set of research on extending lifespans of septic fields for rural food service establishments (restaurants, schools, other premises with commercial kitchens). This work remains vital to rural communities to this day.


Damann L. Anderson and his team at the University of Wisconsin in Madison were leaders in this area. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, they focused on the nutrient loading effect on septic field lifespans. Septic field failure occurs when a septic field no longer properly absorbs effluent. Instead, the water ponds at the surface, a public health hazard.


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