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Nine dos and don'ts for hiring a grease trap pumping contractor

Pump truck cleaning out a grease trapBusiness managers might feel as if their lives revolve around quarters … quarters of the year, that is. From taxes to financial reports and marketing initiatives, managers have a laundry list of tasks to accomplish four times a year. Food service establishment operators have yet one more responsibility to tackle at least once a quarter — the pumping of the grease trap.

Granted, most restaurant and commercial kitchens contract out this dreaded deed, but the manager still must choose a trusted contractor. Working with someone that cuts corners or is frequently tardy could land FSE operators in hot water with their municipalities.

 Because the middle layer of water is what exits the tank, installing a properly sized interceptor — and regular maintenance to ensure the grease and water levels are at appropriate levels — are of utmost importance. Also important, hiriing the right contractor to clean out the grease interceptor periodically. Here are some tips.

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How Asheboro is tackling waste-to-energy projects

Asheboro Wastewater Treatment PlantLike many wastewater treatment facilities, the Asheboro Wastewater Treatment Plant, is under constant pressure to do more with less.

Already, the facility has cut in half the amount of electricity it uses to run the blowers in its two aeration tanks.

But the facility is now looking at some additional innovations to save money by reducing energy costs, reducing waste disposal costs and process even more waste from customers.

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How the Asheboro wastewater treatment plant achieves more with less

Aeration tank at Asheboro wastewater treatment plantThe Asheboro Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1962, during a different era. The Cuban Missile Crisis was right around the corner and America had just launched a space race to put the first man on the moon.

At the time, if you had mentioned “Class A biosolids” or “thermophilic bacteria” to a manager or operator at the plant, chances are they would have looked at you as though you had just come from the moon.

But the Asheboro, N.C. plant — even with some infrastructure that dates back more than 50 years — is on the leading edge of wastewater treatment. And it is the plant’s operators and staff that now talk about biosolids, bacteria and other cutting edge practices.

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Health care facilities' unique pretreatment challenges - and how to solve them

Lawrence & Memorial HospitalHospitals and other health care facilities often operate extensive commercial kitchens. But unlike restaurants, hotels and other food service 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 pretreatement 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.

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Why size is no excuse for reducing grease pretreatment standards

Outdoor grease interceptorOne size fits all might be an appropriate term for a rain poncho. Or a baseball hat fitted with an elastic band. Perhaps even a baggy pair of sweatpants with a drawstring. But, the term has no place in the world of grease pretreatment. 

For a pretreatment plan to be effective, the effluent rate of a commercial kitchen, along with its size and type of food served, must be considered.

The century-old technology that is the traditional concrete interceptor is still the go-to choice for many food service establishments, despite its numerous problems. These are viable for some facilities — if they have the space. But it’s just not practical for many others. Many establishments, such as strip mall restaurants or restaurants located inside office buildings or in tightly packed urban areas, don’t have the available outdoor space.

But there are other choices.

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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 while 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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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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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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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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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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