Mark Tosczak

New drawings place Trapzilla in vehicle traffic areas

Delivery truckWhat is your plan when a city official, contractor, or engineer says a 1,000-gallon grease interceptor must be installed in your drive-through, parking lot, or another area where vehicles will be driving over it every day? 

Trying to comply with local codes and regulations shouldn’t be difficult. You shouldn’t have to use all your resources to engineer, install, and maintain a grease trap. It should be easier and more affordable. 

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How commercial kitchens can manage grease from rotisserie ovens

rotisserie chickens in ovenRotisserie chicken ovens have been steadily gaining popularity in commercial kitchens since 1985, when Boston Market first introduced them to the restaurant industry. Today, more than 750 million rotisserie chickens are sold every year in grocery stores, club stores and food-service outlets.

While the slow-cooked birds are a smart choice for retailers, the grease they generate can present a challenge for commercial kitchen owners and for municipal water treatment systems.

What options do kitchen operators have to ensure they still comply with municipal pretreatment and plumbing codes?

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How grease interceptors can reduce greenhouse gases


earth from outer spaceCommercial kitchen operators already know the benefits of using grease interceptors to capture used oil and grease -- cleaner sewage systems, reduced costs for wastewater treatment plants and fewer fines from municipalities.

Plus, you can protect your facility's interior plumbing and make a little extra money selling used cooking oil to recyclers.

But did you know that by capturing all that grease you're also helping cut greenhouse gas emissions?

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How a simple kitchen device protects waterways and sewer systems

Food in sinkWhen it comes to disposing of food waste, which works best for commercial kitchens and our waterways – garbage disposals or strainers?

At first glance, a garbage disposal might seem like the easiest choice – just flip a switch and the food is gone. No scraps to throw away. What could be simpler? Plus, you keep waste out of the landfill.

However, food scraps that enter the wastewater treatment system can cause problems with our municipal sewer systems. 

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Why steel grease traps fail

Grease trapGrease interceptors have different weaknesses and points of failure depending on what they’re made of. Those materials affect how durable a particular grease trap is, and often affect how it’s designed. Design choices, in turn, also affect the reliability and durability of a grease trap.

If concrete and fiberglass have problems, it seems as though it might make sense to use something stronger to construct the grease interceptor. Something like steel. But steel grease traps come with their own problems, and often have very short lifespans compared to other options.

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Why fiberglass grease traps fail

Since concrete has so problems with corrosion, a substance such as fiberglass, which doesn’t have those problems, might seem to be a better choice. While fiberglass doesn’t experience the corrosion problems that steel and concrete grease traps do, it has some other challenges.

Fiberglass' rigidity and the use of other materials for inlet and outlet connections can create problems.

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Why concrete grease traps fail

Concrete Grease Trap CloggedGrease traps – at least most grease traps – don’t last forever. Understanding why some fail might help keep your current interceptor running efficiently. If you’re in the market for a new grease interceptor, understanding why they fail might help you make a smarter choice.

Today we take a look at why concrete grease traps fail.

Concrete grease traps are the oldest type of grease interceptor still in common use, but they have a number of inherent problems that lead to failure.

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How fatty acids plus metallic ions create monsters in your wastewater system

Graphic - emulsion losses vary with interceptor designIf you read our post on how emulsions can lead to fats, oil and grease (FOG) escaping a grease interceptor, you know that some grease will inevitably get into the wastewater system.

While the amount of grease getting through each day doesn’t seem that large, it constitutes what many feel is the greatest threat to the world’s sewer systems. 

You might wonder why it would be a problem if the fats and oils have been emulsified — broken into tiny particles — through physical emulsion or, via soaps and detergents, chemical emulsion. And what that has to do with grease interceptor design.

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How you can reduce emulsion, the invisible grease thief

Commercial Kitchen sink

Even if a commercial kitchen has an effective grease interceptor properly installed and maintained, fats, oils and grease (FOG) can still escape into the wastewater system.

While no grease removal system is 100 percent effective, a properly maintained, modern grease trap can still remove more than 99 percent of FOG found in kitchen effluent. One of the biggest obstacles to grease removal, though, is the invisible thief called emulsion.

Emulsion is a “fine dispersion of minute droplets of one liquid in another in which it is not soluble or miscible.” So what does that mean in plain English? And what can you do about it?

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Five tactics for tackling the Thanksgiving grease-apocalypse

Thanksgiving turkey being deep friedIt happens every year during the holidays: Home cooks rev up their ovens and deep fryers and in go millions of turkeys in preparation for Thanksgiving day feasts.

The following day, and sometimes even the same day, plumbers and sewer district workers get called out to deal with blockages, back-ups and overflows. It’s messy and expensive. And it’s all completely unnecessary. 

But, as someone who works in wastewater treatment, you knew that. 

The question is, how do you eliminate, or least reduce the impact of, the annual Thanksgiving grease-apocalypse. The goal, obviously, is to convince as many people as possible about the dangers of dumping turkey grease down the drain.

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What your dipstick might not tell you about effective pretreatment

Historic photo of Seattle municipal water testing labMany local sewer ordinances require that food service establishments make their grease interceptors available for periodic inspection to ensure they’re working correctly, keeping fats, oil and grease (FOG) out of the wastewater system.

And the tool of choice for many pretreatment coordinators and other professionals is the dipstick (or popularly, the Sludge Judge, a specific brand of dipstick). It’s a long, clear plastic tube that enables anyone to quickly measure how much grease a grease interceptor has accumulated.

While dunking a dipstick into a grease interceptor may allow you to quickly determine whether or not it needs to be emptied, it doesn’t really tell you how well the interceptor is keeping grease out of the wastewater system. 

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How businesses and municipalities are battling cooking oil thieves

Pump truck emptying grease interceptorAcross the country and around the world criminals are targeting a new kind of “liquid gold” — used cooking oil.

The headlines say it all:

“Three charged in Harford in $1 million scheme to steal used cooking oil”

“Huh? Thieves stealing used cooking grease to turn into quick cash”

“Theft of grease for biofuel gets stickier”

In 2014, two brothers, both in their 70s, pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to sell and transport used cooking oil stolen from restaurants in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The FBI wiretapped a federal informant to bring the pair to justice, and prosecutors said the two men stole grease worth more than $120,000 over the course of two years.

Businesses and local authorities, though, are fighting back.

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The 8-step process engineers use to test grease interceptors

TZ-1826 testing video screenshotThe American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) developed standards in the 1990s to govern passive hydromechanical grease interceptors. The standard was developed in collaboration with the Plumbing & Drainage Institute, and is referenced by the Uniform Plumbing Code, the International Plumbing Code and the National Standard Plumbing Code.

The standard — ASME A112.14.3 — is the measure by which passive grease interceptors (including many of Thermaco’s products) are measured. If it meets the standard, then the interceptor can be used in many installations. If it doesn’t, then it’s a non-starter. 

So how, exactly, does one test a grease interceptor to see if it meets the ASME standard? 

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Nine types of facilities that need oil-water separators

Car wash and lube shop signFood-service establishments aren’t the only businesses that have to keep oil and grease out of wastewater.

Federal, state and local clean water regulations require facilities that generate petroleum oil waste to use oil-water separators to ensure oil doesn’t escape into the sewer system. When oil does escape, not only can it cause big problems for treatment systems, it can also mean significant fines and other penalties for the facility that produced the waste oil.

While specific regulations vary somewhat from state to state, here are nine types of facilities commonly required to have oil-water separators.

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Six tactics cities use to keep FOG out of wastewater systems

Worker repairs sewer linesFats, oils and grease (FOG) in wastewater are one of the biggest challenges facing wastewater systems around the world. Grease, sometimes along with solids, can build up into a solid mass that can narrow or even block wastewater pipes. When that happens, sewers overflow, pipes break, and local authorities are forced to clean up the mess and make repairs.

In the United States alone, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 47 percent of all wastewater system blockages are caused by the buildup of grease. In New York City alone, those annual repairs cost nearly $5 million. Other large cities also rack up multi-million dollar bills for repairs and emergency service.

Cities are adopting a number of tactics to keep grease out of their wastewater systems.

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11 best management practices to control grease in your commercial kitchen

Chef in commercial kitchen with staffThough having a grease interceptor is required in virtually all commercial kitchens, there’s much more to controlling fats, oils and grease (FOG).

Why should you care? It’s not just about staying in compliance with government regulations and avoiding fines or even potential shutdowns. Best management practices to control FOGs in your kitchen will also save you money on maintenance and reduce the risk of costly, emergency plumbing repairs inside your building.

Here are eleven best management practices to control grease, save money and protect your business’ reputation.

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Look what happened when we combined 19,200 gallons of water and 1,920 pounds of lard

Trapzilla TZ-1826 Grease InterceptorA commercial kitchen wouldn’t repeatedly send 200 gallons of burning water and 20 pounds of hot lard through its grease interceptor even on the busiest night. And a blizzard would make it even less likely. 

But this past February, that’s what we subjected our newest grease interceptor, the Trapzilla TZ-1826, to — during a storm.

The TZ-1826 is the third-generation Trapzilla, with a tank design optimized to retain more grease in as small a footprint as possible. We tested the TZ-1826 to the ASME standard to determine its efficiency and capacity.

We didn’t expect what happened next.

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A better grease interceptor: More grease in less space

TZ-1826 Grease InterceptorTo understand the new TZ-1826 Trapzilla Grease Interceptor, consider two numbers: 1,826 and 11,000. 

The first is how many pounds of grease the TZ-1826 can hold. The second is how much a 1,000-gallon concrete trap weighs — a concrete trap that would hold a similar amount of grease, but would require heavy machinery to install and take up three times as much space as the TZ-1826.

How is that possible? That’s what happens when you apply a quarter century of grease interceptor innovation and oil-water separation expertise to a problem that a growing number of commercial food service establishments face: Lots of grease, but not much space for a high-capacity grease trap.

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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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