The Key To Better FOG Control At Wastewater Treatment Plants
FOG, also known as fat, oil, and grease, is a common by-product of daily tasks like cooking, food production, and other industrial processes. For consumers, these materials are hardly given a second thought once they go down the drain, but for wastewater treatment plants it can be an all-consuming problem.
Take the food industry as an example. Restaurants and other food-based establishments are a primary culprit, pouring hot FOG liquids into sinks and drains. The issue is that once the FOG materials cool down, they solidify and cause blockages in the sewer collection system. This leads to a whole host of other problems, including damage to key infrastructure that can be dangerous for public health.
In this article, we’ll focus on the challenges behind better FOG control at wastewater treatment plants and how to achieve them:
Why Is FOG Such A Headache For Treatment Plants?
There are several reasons why the issue of FOG is so difficult to resolve. To start with, FOG is not water-soluble, and when waste containing FOG materials is put into the sewer system without proper treatment, it can cause clogging and other damages.
This in turn becomes the problems of taxpayers and the local environment who are stuck with the costs and consequences of bad FOG management.
Sewer pipes that have been affected by FOG can cause overflow and dangerous liquid waste to be released into the environment - left to continue for long enough, the community as a whole may begin to see an increase in their monthly water rates due to wastage.
As a result of increasing FOG problems around the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now named FOG as one of the top causes of sewer overflows, with an estimated number between 5,000 and 17,000 taking place every year. The constant influx of FOG-related issues has pushed many cities and counties to set strict regulations regarding FOG discharge levels in sewers.
But even with stringent rules and deterring fines, FOG is still an issue right around the country.
Other Challenges Posed By FOG
FOG going into the wastewater system causes a whole collection of issues in drains, sewer systems, and wastewater collection networks that can be costly to repair or maintain.
One of the first issues that people tend to notice is the smell that comes from untreated FOG. When fats, oils, and grease get caught up in the drainage and sewer systems, they congeal along with sanitary waste and old food. This can cause an unpleasant, rancid smell to begin to come from the drains.
The second issue is the problem of overflowing sewer drains. FOG blockages in the sewer collection system can easily lead to burst drains and sewer pipes, leaving the surrounding environment vulnerable to dangerous contamination. Left unattended, the risk goes further to affect public health.
Sewer lines that are regularly impacted by FOG issues will require regular chemical treatment and clearing in order to stay functional. These chemicals, while effective, also pose issues to the treatment plants they eventually end up in.
In short, some of the major consequences of untreated FOG include:
Increases in maintenance costs coming from clearing and removal
Impact on treatment plants and operating efficiency
Bad odors and damaged infrastructure lead to a shorter lifespan
It’s clear to see that FOG is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
What FOG Does To Wastewater Treatment Plants
Now that the consequences of FOG prior to it entering the treatment plant have been explained, it’s time to focus on what takes place in the plant itself.
For the wastewater treatment plant, FOG proves to be a major challenge. Grease is significantly more difficult to degrade when compared to other components typically found in untreated sewage.
But why exactly is FOG so difficult to manage? There are several reasons.
To start with, FOG can form solidified deposits on the tops of settling tanks, pipes, pumps, and other key parts of equipment and sensors. The greasiness goes even further to block filter systems and sludge pumps, and in large enough quantities it can even limit the digestion of micro-organisms that are part of the “cleaning” process.
The only way to avoid these issues is to manage them effectively - something that is easier said than done.
How Wastewater Treatment Plants Are Approaching FOG
A key challenge faced by wastewater treatment plants is the cost associated with treating FOG contamination.
Traditionally, grease interceptors are set up to try and trap as much FOG as possible so that they can be manually removed. The reason why this alone is not enough is that they require a higher level of maintenance and regular cleaning to work.
Other FOG removal methods that are commonly used in treatment plants include filters and specialized membranes. These approaches do work in the sense that they can filter out greasy contaminants, but they suffer from the drawback of becoming easily blocked and needing significant amounts of maintenance.
The need for maintenance is one of the key problems with the above-mentioned methods of FOG management. Maintenance means an increase in the on-site operational expenses and can cause financial distress in time to come.
What does this mean for wastewater treatment plants looking for FOG solutions that are both effective and affordable? It means that there is a need to explore new avenues.
Treatments Being Used To Reduce FOG In Wastewater
The ideal treatment for FOG is multi-pronged. In an ideal world, FOG would never even begin to enter the sewage collection system in the first place. If it’s stopped at the source, it can be removed from the rest of the wastewater that goes towards the treatment plant.
But in a world that is not always ideal, treatment plants need to be prepared to deal with FOG - and prepared in a way that makes use of new methods.
Below are some of the preferred ways that treatment plants can deal with FOG:
Removed From The Source
As already mentioned, removing the FOG at the source is a great first step and can easily be achieved by installing a grease interceptor unit that works in the greywater outlet connected to your kitchen.
The grease collected here needs to be disposed of in the right way, and the actual unit cleaned regularly to avoid build-up.
When FOG has made its way into the sewer system, there is a chance that a team will need to go in to manually remove the blockages. This is a common practice in areas that are primarily residential or commercial, such as in your local restaurant district.
The issue with this approach is that sending a team into the sewer collection systems can be costly, requires specialist equipment, and pose serious safety risks.
Removal By The Wastewater Treatment Plant
At the treatment plant itself, FOG is typically attacked by adding specific biological components to break them up into materials that can be disposed of via biodegradation.
This practice sees special organisms being injected into the FOG-infected materials, bacteria which can then feed on the bonds between the fatty acids and the rest of the chemical make-up of the waste.
While effective, this method is reactive rather than proactive. Newer methods have iterated on this approach to use the same bacteria and enzymes, but specifically introducing them way before the wastewater ever makes its way to the plant.
A Proactive FOG Solution By In-Pipe
FOG control can be a real headache, but it doesn’t have to be. With In-Pipe’s unique FOG control solution, you can use all-natural biological processes right in the collection system.
In-Pipe Technology has developed a solution to eliminating FOG buildup before it becomes an issue for you. We let you treat and solve the problem, not chase it.
Our proprietary bacteria solution metabolizes FOG naturally and is safe for your system. We don’t use harsh chemicals or surfactants that can cause issues for your pipes and infrastructure because we’re in the business of solving problems for you, not creating them. Once the system is set up, we run it – saving you and your staff time and money.
We say enough of simply moving around the problem to other areas of your collection plant. With the In-Pipe process, FOG can be targeted naturally and eliminated from wastewater long before it gets caught up in your collection system.
In-Pipe Technology's bacteria produced enzymes that break down FOG into glycerols and fatty acids, with no negative impact at the plant or downstream on sewer pipe walls or lift stations. All without producing dangerous chemicals as byproducts.
FOG control from In-Pipe will help you cut down on costs, get rid of bad odors, boost your plant capacity and reduce the amount of maintenance needed, saving you more for years to come.
It’s time to take a fuller, revolutionized approach to FOG in wastewater. Contact In-Pipe today to find out how we can transform your current FOG control methods.