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.
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.
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.
The discourse at CWEA's annual conference was lively despite the virtual setting. Pretreatment professionals discussed ways they adapted during the Pandemic, while cities shared aggressive plans to expedite permitting processes and get commercial clients up and running again.
We speak to anyone with a FOG (fats, oils and grease) inquiry and often end up pointing them in a totally different direction than they originally were headed. It’s a pattern in these conversations. Occasionally, this involves a caller with an MGD mindset. Here is an example of how one of these calls typically proceeds.
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.
Hospitals and other health care facilities often operate extensive commercial kitchens. But unlike restaurants, hotels and other foodservice establishments, hospitals face additional cost-control, sanitation and operational challenges.
They have one or more commercial kitchens that may feed effluent into plumbing systems that run for hundreds or thousands of feet before exiting the building.
Hospitals also operate on a 24/7 basis, requiring them to keep downtime to a minimum. They don’t close for holidays, and their kitchens must keep operating matter what.
These factors mean that hospitals face unique pretreatment challenges. Facility managers and engineers must carefully consider their pretreatment technology, or risk high-cost repairs and even breakdowns that could threaten the health of patients and workers.
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.
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.
As if running a business isn’t challenging enough in the current economic climate, an invisible fallout from the pandemic may be lurking in the pipes beneath hotels and restaurants. And it really stinks.
That offensive rotten-egg smell signals the presence of hydrogen sulfide creeping up from the grease interceptor into your business. During the pandemic, we’ve had calls from clients asking about the smell, and their stories offer a helpful heads-up for all of us.